Development near Thun Field advances, with changes

July 8, 2009

Plans for a housing development under the approach to Washington’s Pierce County-Thun Field can go forward, with a commitment from the developer to mitigate the effects of the development on airport safety, the Pierce County Hearing Examiner has ruled.

Hearing Examiner Stephen K. Causseaux granted a request to build the proposed development, Lipoma Communities, slightly more than half a mile south of the approach end of Thun Field’s Runway 34. The development would create 1,697 dwelling units on 202 acres, more than half of which lie under the airport overlay zone.

Responding to objections from AOPA, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), and local pilots about the subdivision’s potential effects on airport safety, the developer agreed to take voluntary mitigation measures to reduce hazardous wildlife attractants and ensure that lighting of the development does not cause a distraction or interfere with aircraft operating at Thun Field.

“While AOPA still has concerns about residential development so close to the airport, raising aviation-related concerns during the planning process has brought about changes that protect the safety of both the airport users and the future residents,” said AOPA Airport Policy Manager John Collins. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Vic Young met with the county, WSDOT, and the developer to discuss the mitigation measures.

AOPA urged the county in June to ensure that only compatible land uses were allowed around Pierce County-Thun Field, warning that continued residential development around airports leads to tensions between neighboring communities and the airport. The hearing examiner’s approval rules that although the project would lie within accident safety zones, the concentrations of people in the subdivision would be allowable according to Pierce County criteria for safety zones.