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$84 million Sonoma County airport expansion OK'd

Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously endorsed an $84 million project to expand Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport to enable more daily commercial flights.

Supervisors sided with supporters of the project, who touted the economic benefits of the expansion, saying they outweighed impacts on surrounding residents and the environment.

"We need a healthy economy to thrive as a community. And transportation infrastructure is absolutely a part of this," said Supervisor Shirlee Zane, chairwoman of the board.

Proposed Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport Improvements

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The decision, which is set to be finalized Jan. 24, came after a four-hour meeting that included more than 40 speakers voicing either support for the project or their concerns about its effects.

Business and construction interests hailed the plan's approval, saying an expanded airport would be a selling point for local industry and tourism.

"In this economy, this is as close to an economic home run as we're going to get," said Jonathan Coe, president and chief executive of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.

Some speakers opposed the project outright, saying it would bring big-city air traffic to Sonoma County.

Others, such as a group of Windsor residents that included Mayor Debora Fudge, said they agreed with proposed safety upgrades but urged supervisors to lessen impacts on airport neighbors by requiring noise limits, air traffic changes and road upgrades.

"Whatever we can do to minimize flights going over populated areas is going to make everybody happy," said Bob Finn of Windsor.

Supervisors tentatively backed some measures to account for noise, air traffic and environmental impacts, but said their hands were tied on stronger limits by federal rules.


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