October 21, 2010
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA is urging officials in Vacaville, Calif., to heed warnings about safety at the Nut Tree Airport and reject a plan that would put a high-density residential development within 1,000 feet of the end of the runway.
Numerous residents and airport advocates spoke against the mixed-use development plan that calls for building 200 residential units within 1,000 feet of the end of Nut Tree’s 4,700-foot-long Runway 2 at a city planning commission meeting Oct. 19. Despite the presentations, the commission unanimously approved six plan amendments, sending the measure on the city council for further consideration, according to AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers in attendance. Other aviation organizations that attended included the Solano Pilots Association and the California Pilots Association. The votes on amendments did not directly address zoning related to residential unit construction, officials noted.
The meeting received coverage in a local newspaper, which identified the developers as WW Nut Tree LLC, CT Stocking LLC, and the city’s redevelopment authority.
The California Division of Aeronautics has also recommended against residential construction, pointing out that it would be incompatible with airport land-use planning guidelines adopted in 2002. Officials supporting the plan responded that residential construction was previously considered compatible under standards in use from 1998.
“AOPA strongly opposes approval of this project. We urge the City to reject approval and avoid any residential component adjacent to the airport,” wrote John L. Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy in an Oct. 18 letter to Vacaville Planning Commission Chairman Joe Niccoli.
Collins pointed out that it is national FAA policy to guide airport sponsors away from residential development proposals as “an incompatible use” of land, and that it would be “poor public policy to knowingly expose citizens to sounds generated by an active and vibrant general aviation airport.”
Development decisions for the site have been long in the making. From 2002 to 2004, Vacaville demolished and cleared buildings on property adjacent to the airport, and approved a mixed use development zone for the site.
In 2005, plans to build on the property, known as the Nut Tree Ranch, were approved, and construction began. Details of the plans revealed potential for a residential development—but not directly adjacent to the airport. The plans eventually resulted in development only of commercial space. In 2009-2010 the Nut Tree Ranch Policy Plan was modified, putting residential units back in play.
AOPA will continue to advise against building residential units so close to Nut Tree’s runway when the plan comes before the Vacaville City Council, Collins said.
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