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The course of relations between Denver and the suburban municipalities, with regard to the agreement allowing for development of a new International Airport was quiet complex. This resulted from the differences in interests and points of view between the groups that were reflected in their political and management issues. Approval to develop the New International Airport involved intergovernmental negotiations, which took more than a dozen years. The most difficult aspect of these negotiations was the agreement between these groups to jointly support an annexation agreement for the new site (Kennedy School of Government, 2011). This paper will analyze the political and management issues between the City of Denver and the Suburban Municipalities with regard to building a new airport.
Political and Management Issues
Opposition was evident from the onset of the proposed project and Denver was prepared to muscle it out. On the other hand, Adams County hired lawyers and other experts to halt Denver’s efforts. This was viewed more of a political than transportation planning process, since the critical variable was the effects on people’s quality of life and the environment. Denver was required to win the approval of majority voters in the county from which land was being transferred as opposed to the earlier requirements of a simple majority of the land owners in order to develop.
Following these developments, Denver’s annexations were precluded leading to its economic vitality significantly, depending on the revenue generated by its Stapleton International Airport. The airport’s traffic was projected to continue increasing and it was expected to receive 70 million passengers by the year 2000. The airport was not only serving the region’s transportation needs, but it was also an important economic generator. It also provided employment opportunities to quiet a large number of people statewide. It was evident that an alternative was needed to cater for the projected increase in the traffic. There were proposals to expand the Stapleton airport to the neighboring arsenal, an army’s past dump site.
The main key players in this project were the City of Denver, the neighboring Adams County, Brighton, Commerce City, Northglenn and experts. The airlines, both United and Continental preferred to the expansion of Stapleton rather than a new airport because they could retain the control of the gates. The suburbs were also players in this case favoring an airport close to the city (Kennedy School of Government, 2011). Adams County was mainly opposed to the initial project because they felt that Denver considered them their dumping site.The suburban communities were concerned of the impacts of the project, such as deteriorating air quality. Adams County also felt that Denver needed to help out people living in a mobile home park who would be within the noise of the proposed new runaway, and whose home values were uncertain due to the unresolved status of the expansion. There were also concerns about moving people from the areas of the expansion where noise levels were unacceptable.
The idea of expansion onto the Arsenal also seemed unacceptable to Adams County due to safety issues emanating from fear of unexploded armaments. The County also felt that it was difficult to move contaminated soils, and they were not certain about the use of large scale environmentally contaminated sites. After alternatives beyond the Arsenal site, Adams started raising issues of the jurisdictions, revenues, influence of the airport on the development and financing (Catlett, 2007). Adams County found expansion of SIA being forced upon it with all the noise and additional pollution. When the memorandum of understanding was reached, Denver was afraid to lose economic control of the airport, while Adams was taking a political risk.
Denver was mainly concerned with retaining the economic benefits of SIA. Technical evaluation of the two sites completed by February 1983 put the cost of expanding Stapleton at $2.4 billion, thus providing a seven runaway facility and a new terminal building. The cost of developing the new airport would total $3.1 billion, providing a six runaway facility. However, the cost of decontaminating the arsenal or putting up a noise mitigation plan was not included. Key members of Denver negotiating however later developed doubts regarding the feasible and timely cleanup of the arsenal.
Construction of a new East-West runaway was also proposed and favored as an interim solution, since the SIA would be spared the expense of acquiring noise buffer land for the alternative North to South Runaway. To ensure the interests of both sides are well accommodated, both sides needed to sit down and explore more alternatives. For this to work, Denver would have to be ready to share the economic benefits of the development potential of the new airport and reduce some negative impacts of the facility (Catlett, 2007).
When the parties agreed on annexation, economic benefits became a concern of both parties. They also shifted their attention to keep the area as small as possible and how to define jurisdiction. The public’s attention was also drawn to the use of contaminated Arsenal land. Denver seemed to be concerned about its economic benefits rather than incorporating the concerns of all concerned parties. The city should have considered the cost of decontaminating the arsenal and putting up a noise mitigation plan. It would also have addressed the concerns of the people about the impacts of the expansion.
The political and management issues between the City of Denver and the Suburban Municipalities with regard to the construction of a new airport were very severe. The project took long weighing the costs and benefits of expanding the Stapleton airport and those of developing a new one. Had it involved technical experts and carried out accurate research from the onset, many setbacks would have been avoided. The project ended up consuming more time energy and resources than it should have had there been meaningful dialogue in the earlier management.