November 18, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
City officials in Chandler, Ariz., could avoid incompatible land development near the Chandler Municipal Airport by denying a plan to build 15 homes on property within 1,200 feet of the airport’s terminal building.
AOPA is calling on the city’s planning and zoning board to deny a rezoning extension needed to keep the 13-acre development plan alive. The original zoning change, approved three years ago, is set to expire because the proposed project has not gone forward.
AOPA opposes residential development adjacent to public-use, federally funded airports as an incompatible land use. Allowing homes to be constructed in the immediate area of airports often leads to calls by residents to restrict airport operations, such as limiting the type and size of aircraft that can use the airport, or curfews. The Chandler Airport Commission recently recommended against extending the rezoning for the Vina Escondida development.
“The City has a golden opportunity to correct a wrong when the first approval was given three years ago,” said AOPA Vice President of Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn. “The FAA requires airports that have received federal funds to protect the airport through zoning when possible. We expect the city to live up to that obligation.”
In a Nov. 15 letter to Chandler Planning Manager Kevin Mayo, Dunn pointed out that maintaining compatible land uses was a condition the city agreed to in accepting more than $30 million in federal airport improvement funds since 1982. Letting the development go forward now would only benefit the developer, while leaving the city to deal with inevitable noise complaints from new residents, he added.
The municipal Web page about the airport in Chandler (population approximately 240,000) quotes an Arizona Transportation Department description of it as a community asset that contributes greatly to the local economy, and provides jobs and corporate access to markets in the Southwest. “With more than 260,000 operations each year, it is among the nation’s 50 busiest general aviation airports and delivers an annual economic impact of more than $53 million to Arizona's economy,” the page says.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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