The divide over which direction the San Diego Regional Airport Authority should be taking in its search for a suitable site for a new airport rang loud and clear before the 5-3 vote.
While the authority's board also voted to discontinue its pursuit of a supplemental North County runway, most of the contention was over whether or not it was prudent to continue studying a joint-use airport with the military after the Secretary of the Navy was firm in his rejection of any form of dual-use with a commercial airport in a February letter sent to Rep. Susan Davis (D-San Diego).
The shortlist includes concepts involving North Island Naval Air Station, Camp Pendleton and Marine Corp Air Station Miramar.
"I was raised from a generation when "˜no' means "˜no,'" said Executive board member Xema Jacobson.
Board member Paul Peterson disagreed, summing up the majority view by refusing to take the Navy's letter as a poison pill.
"When the Secretary of the Navy writes a letter like that, it's a snapshot in time," he said. "We can't take the Navy's current position today as the final position of the Navy 15, 20 years from now."
Lemon Grove Mayor Mary Teresa Sessom, who has been resolute in her opposition to concentrating on military sites, said county residents can't wait 20 years for something that may, or may not, happen.
"I think that's wrong and I will always oppose these sites because they are distracting us from finding something that will work. I think we're spinning our wheels," she said. "I'm not carrying the water for the military, if anyone thinks I am. I'm carrying the water for the region."
Nearly $3 million will be spent on a cost and technical analysis for the concepts proposed for each of the three sites, all of which include a shared-use flight plan with the military.
Col. Gregory Goodman, commanding officer at Camp Pendleton, admonished the board for even considering joint-use, pointing out that the student pilots who fly the F-18 fighter jets make mistakes when training for complicated flight maneuvers and landings on aircraft carriers "” a potentially disastrous combination if civilian jets share runways.
"At best, it's unfair. At least, it's unsafe," he said.
The authority is also considering two civilian sites in Campo and the Imperial Desert, both of which are saddled with their own problems, including their remote locations, billions of dollars in needed infrastructure costs and other environmental hurdles.
An expansion of Lindbergh Field is also on the table, but that would require land currently occupied by the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) and call for a closed V-shape dual runway system, one that would potspone, but not solve, the region's long term air traffic needs.
Before Councilman Tony Young left the meeting, the board voted 5-4 to halt further study of a supplemental airport in North County, citing preliminary research that showed the market feasibility of that port would be puny at best and too expensive for airlines to use.
"The numbers are staggering," said board member William D. Lynch. "We don't want to commit to something that could be a white elephant."
That left a board eager to impress upon voters later this year that every possibility was vetted, including military sites, with little choice.
"If we cut it off here, the monkey dust is going to come out in November," board member Paul Nieto said.