Tuesday, October 4, 2005
Council to hear airport testimony
REDLANDS: Members will consider a temporary ban on development near the municipal facility.
By NAOMI KRESGE
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise
REDLANDS – A debate over development around Redlands Municipal Airport comes before the City Council this morning. The council will hear testimony from airport officials from Redlands, Big Bear, Riverside County, Fullerton and San Bernardino and consider a temporary ban on residential development near the airport. Pilots and airport advocates fear that population growth in northeast Redlands near the airport will lead to more complaints about noise and eventually flight restrictions.
Some argue that light industrial development, open space or extremely low-density housing are the only acceptable land uses near the airport.
Today’s study session will be in the context of one particular project, an 81-home Walton Development tract proposed south of the airport, between Pioneer and San Bernardino avenues at Judson Street.
Though the City Council approved its environmental report in June, the project itself has been delayed several times at the Planning Commission level.
Frustrated at the delays and afraid that a temporary ban on construction would delay the project still further, developer Everett Hughes Jr. wrote property owners in the area last week and asked for support.
Hughes told them of the proposed temporary ban and said airport advocates want the city to encourage industrial, not residential, development in the area and increase jet and helicopter traffic at the airport.
“To protect your property values and your property rights, you need to get involved!” Hughes writes, telling residents the date and time for this morning’s meeting. “I encourage you to join me in attending that workshop to voice your opposition to any airport expansion and change from residential uses.”
Hughes said Walton Development has put more than $2 million into its 42 acres but believes that denial is likely despite reducing the number of houses in its project and adding open space.
By Monday, 14 people wrote or e-mailed the city to oppose airport expansion, most saying they would prefer more houses to more airplane noise. Four wrote to support the airport.
Officials at the Municipal Utilities Department, which manages the airport, say Hughes’ letter is misleading.
“There are no plans to do a major expansion of the airport,” said Gary Van Dorst, the city’s solid waste manager.
Van Dorst said the only existing airport expansion plans are to extend the runway 500 feet, which could have a small effect on the kinds of planes that can land at the facility.
Traffic is increasing, he said, but that’s because of trends in aviation.
Staff will inform the City Council this morning that a disclosure ordinance is being written to require more disclosure of noise issues, he said.
The council also will consider beginning a long-term study about the future of the airport, and a temporary ban on residential development until it is complete.
Bob Pearce, a retired pilot and member of the city’s Airport Advisory Board, said the city already has a $140,000 grant from the Federal Aviation Administration to do the planning work.
“He bought the land,” he said of Walton Development. “This was his mistake, not the city’s mistake.”