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Residential development near airport an ‘unnecessary risk’

A proposed residential development that would place dwelling units within a short distance of aircraft movements in Half Moon Bay, Calif., remains “a prime example of non-compatible land use adjacent to an airport,” AOPA said in comments to local planning authorities Oct. 26.

A public hearing is set for Nov.17 on the final environmental impact report for the Big Wave Wellness Center and Office Park project, a mixed-use development consisting of a residential facility for approximately 50 developmentally disabled adults and 20 caretakers. There would also be an office complex.

The developer has proposed to locate the facility south of the approach end of Runway 30 at the Half Moon Bay Airport. The residential section would be approximately 1,000 feet from the end of usable pavement. A photograph at the top of the developer’s website that shows the site on a picturesque seaside peninsula does not clearly indicate that an airport is close by.

AOPA, the FAA, and state transportation officials have urged against the project for two years as an unsuitable location for residential units—and warned county planners that proceeding could jeopardize future federal airport aid.The developer recently offered a modified design and a draft easement which it said disclosed the risks and hazards of living so close to the airport.

AOPA “respectfully continues to maintain our opposition to the above referenced project adjacent to Half Moon Bay Airport as a prime example of non-compatible land use adjacent to an airport,” Wrote John L. Collins, AOPA manager of airport policy in an Oct. 26 letter to Camille Leung, project planner for San Mateo County’s planning and building department.  He cited a July 2010 letter from the FAA to airport manager Mark Larson that reminded officials of their compliance obligations and registered strong objections to locating the project near the airport, and noted that “we concur with that assessment.”

In another letter to Leung, the California Division of Aeronautics characterized placing the planned residences near the airport as “an unnecessary risk” to residents. “The County does not appear to acknowledge the very serious matter of noncompliance with FAA grant assurances,” it added in the Oct. 25, 2010 letter. Proceeding with the proposal “could jeopardize future FAA funding for airport safety and improvement projects if the County fails to comply with the assurances.”

Collins noted that changes made to the plan since its introduction, including the navigation easement and modifications to the center’s design, mitigated but did not eliminate encroachment on the airport.

“From our perspective it is a far better application of public policy to not allow a bad use than to have to mitigate it,” he wrote.

The public hearing on the final environmental impact report, originally scheduled for Oct. 27, will not take place Nov. 17. The location has yet to be announced.

Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz
Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: Advocacy

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