WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville Pilots Association pulled its appeal of Nordic Naturals’ expansion hours before the Watsonville City Council was scheduled to consider it Tuesday evening.

Acting Community Development Director Suzi Merriam said city staff received a letter from Wittwer Parkin LLP, on behalf of the WPA, just before 5 p.m. Tuesday.

On May 2, the Watsonville Planning Commission approved Nordic Naturals’ request to build a two-story, 62,000-square-foot expansion at its headquarters on 111 Jennings Drive. Known as “Phase 2” of the company’s expansion, Nordic Naturals, which produces fish oil products, is looking to move research and development functions from a San Diego facility into the new building, a project that has been in development since 2008.

On May 16, Natalie Kirkish, an attorney with Wittwer Parkin LLP, filed the appeal, stating in a letter that the “City cannot approve of any development within the Airport Safety Zones until it has incorporated the California Aeronautics Handbook into mandatory provisions in its General Plan.”

But after reading the latest report from Merriam, which was released on June 8, Kirkish said the pilots agreed that the project complied with the “most stringent interpretation” of the California Aeronautics Handbook.

The project is also nearly the same as the one that was approved in 2008, which the WPA supported, Kirkish said.

“We reached an agreement because it’s substantially similar to the project that was approved,” she said.

However, Kirkish said WPA is still taking the position that development is not allowed near the airport without a valid general plan. She did note that city staff seems to agree, based on a report earlier in the year regarding a proposed auditorium for Pajaro Valley High School, where city officials urged the council to deny it due to the ongoing development of the 2030 General Plan, among other things.

Charles Eadie of Eadie Consultants, representing Nordic Naturals, said he was “very happy” that the WPA withdrew the appeal.

“We worked hard to provide a way for them to do that,” he said. “It’s emblematic to the commitment Nordic Naturals has to this community.”

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the council received a report on the city’s budget for the next two years.

Assistant City Manager Matt Huffaker said the city’s budget picture is improving, as revenue sources such as sales tax and property tax have seen increases in recent years.

Huffaker advised the council that, although the financial situation is improving, significant increases in pension costs will be a significant issue in the near future. The increases will result in about $6 million over the next five years, according to Huffaker.

Watsonville is not the only city in California faced with this issue, he noted, saying he expects “significant conversations” to happen at the state level soon.

The council is expected to approve the budget at its next meeting on June 27.

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