Cedar Mill
Community Website

Search the Cedar Mill News:

About The
Cedar Mill News

Volume 9, Issue 3
March 2011

Hillsboro Airport expansion meets citizen action
by Miki Barnes

While living in Cedar Mill in the 1990s, I became alarmed about the amount of noisy, polluting air traffic flying over my home, day and night. I contacted various authorities and learned that Cedar Mill is under a major flight path from Portland International Airport (PDX).

In an effort to remedy the situation, in 1998, I agreed to serve as the Washington County representative on the PDX Citizen Noise Advisory Committee, a position I held until 2003, when I moved from Cedar Mill to Banks. Unfortunately Banks is under a training pattern for student pilots from Hillsboro Airport (HIO), so I still have planes circling overhead every day. Thus I have continued my involvement in airport issues.

Cedar Mill is about halfway between PDX and HIO; as a result it is impacted by both of these airports.

Plans are currently under way to expand HIO, an airport that already has nearly the same number of operations (takeoffs and landings) as PDX. Approximately two-thirds of HIO operations are training flights. Constructing a third runway has the potential to nearly double operations at this facility. Communities are laying off schoolteachers and shutting down clinics and mental health facilities, meanwhile the public is expected to pay more than $13.5 million to subsidize a third runway to accommodate student pilots and general aviation hobbyists.

One of the primary tenants at Hillsboro airport is Hillsboro Aviation, a company that recruits students from around the globe and then gives them free reign to accumulate helicopter and fixed wing flight hours by practicing over our communities. As a result, urban and rural properties within a 20-mile radius of the airport are routinely subjected to noise, safety risks, and toxic emissions. Note, student pilots are not required to undergo TSA screenings.

This image from the Hillsboro Airport website illustrates the network of agencies that control airport operations in the region.

So many different entities are involved in aviation policy in Oregon that dealing with all of them is like a shell game, where every agency says they can't help you and points the finger at someone else. The Port of Portland operates both PDX and HIO, but the cities and counties are also involved, and so are the FAA and the state Department of Aviation. I have devoted countless hours to learning how to navigate this maze.

In 2006 I started a website – – to share this knowledge with others in the community who have issues with airports. The website is a volunteer effort that involves researching and writing articles on aviation issues.

Legal appeals

Beginning last year, the focus expanded to include two legal appeals related to the Hillsboro Airport. One was a challenge to a pro-expansion City of Hillsboro airport zoning ordinance that was brought to Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Hillsboro had attempted to rezone nearly 7000 parcels of land to allow airport expansion.

The zone changes would have required all property owners in the Airport Safety and Compatibility Zone to provide an "Avigation Easement" upon seeking a land use permit to develop their land. [Ed. note: All of the land is inside the current Urban Growth Boundary although much of it is currently undeveloped. Some is farmed, much is simply vacant.]

It would have given the Port of Portland the right to:

  • subject your property under specified circumstances to "Noise, vibrations, fumes, dust and fuel particle emissions;"
  • prohibit the growth of trees and erection of buildings over a certain height;
  • enter your property to mark or put lights on structures; and
  • prohibit you from installing certain lighting and electrical equipment

In June of 2010, in a decision that was later upheld by the Oregon Court of Appeals, LUBA ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional based on the first two items. It is possible the other three will be challenged at a later date on a case-by-case basis depending on how the city and Port choose to rewrite the ordinance.

In a second legal action, three citizens – Patrick Conry, Blaine Ackley, and myself – challenged the FAA's January 2010 approval of the Hillsboro Airport third runway proposal on the grounds that a thorough and comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement should be performed before moving forward. A hearing was held in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on February 9, 2011. Their decision has not yet been rendered.

Latest developments, public meetings

Following reversal by LUBA and the Oregon Court of Appeals of its pro-aviation zoning plan, the City of Hillsboro is moving forward with a revised Hillsboro Airport zoning ordinance. Towards this end, two Hillsboro Planning Commission meetings have been scheduled in March. There is a limited window for public input in this process. If the city decides to move forward, public hearings are likely to be scheduled in April or May.

Legal costs associated with these challenges exceed $34,000. Thankfully, we have successfully raised more than $12,000 from community members. My husband and I have contributed over $7,000 out of our personal funds to date but we continue to seek donations from community members who share our concerns.

Visit our website for more details on these cases. To receive my updates via email, send a message to




Sign Up Now to receive
The Cedar Mill News by email each month

Cedar Mill News Subject Index
for past articles

Published monthly by Pioneer Marketing & Design
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291