The San Bernardino International Airport Authority and Hillwood Enterprises gave final approval of the Eastgate Air Cargo Facility Monday afternoon.
It was standing-room-only during a special session at the Norton Regional Event Center. The project will improve 100 acres for the facility on the northeast portion of the former Norton Air Force Base.
The ratification follows a public information hearing that was held in August, a multiyear environmental and community review process that included input from the FAA, the South Coast Air Quality Management District and many other resource agencies and community participants.
The FAA issued a finding of no significant impact on the environment. The FAA’s report was received by the airport late on Monday, Dec. 23, and the meeting was scheduled and announced on Friday, Dec. 27, just before 10 a.m., fulfilling the state’s law regarding notification of public meetings.
An AllianceCalifornia representative told the commission, “The average wage of the jobs created at Eastgate is projected at $26 per hour and will include new aviation-specific occupations.”
AllianceCalifornia is “committed to finding a tenant for Eastgate that offers robust benefits including medical, dental, vision, paid leave and other financial assistance.
Dozens of public comments took more than two hours.
Multiple unions along with the members from the Highland Chamber of Commerce at the session that supported the Eastgate project along with community organizers and citizens who were against the project.
The citizens against the project said it would worsen the air quality in San Bernardino County and increase the risk of cancer.
Two of the people who made public comments were candidates for District 3 supervisor, Karen Ickes and Redlands City Councilman Eddie Tejeda, who are running against Supervisor Dawn Rowe. Ickes voiced her opposition to the project. Tejeda said that he read the lease before entering the room and that “there is a lot of missing information” and that the community members who were voicing their opposition to the project “had a right to be upset.”
At one point during the session, multiple audience members were trying to speak over the citizens who had signed up for public comment. They were told by airport staff to quiet down or that they would have to clear the room.
Many citizens opposing the project asked for a “community benefits agreement.” Michael Burrows responded: “That the airport deed and FAA grant insurances prohibit the airport from entering into a community benefits agreement.”
Burrows then gave the floor to Hillwood Senior Vice President John Magness, who gave a small presentation and told to the commission, “Sustainability and job creation are at the core of Hillwood’s values,” and that “In partnership with nine highly skilled labor unions, Eastgate will demonstrate the economic potential for environmentally responsible air cargo facilities at AllianceCalifornia.”
Following Magness’ presentation, the commission voted unanimously to approve the ground lease project.
Highland Mayor and alternate Larry McCallon said after the meeting that Eastgate was a “good project,” that it would provide an “economic engine” to the local economy.