Rialto Airport

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Rialto enacts building ban near airport
The San Bernardino (CA) County Sun

RIALTO – City officials don’t want to blow this opportunity. They have developers knocking on their doors and flooding the Planning Division with applications for homes, warehouses, offices and shopping centers along the Interstate 210 extension corridor.

But city leaders aren’t sure what they want to do with Rialto Municipal Airport and the area surrounding it, so they decided Tuesday night to hold off on development.

The City Council voted 5-0 to place a moratorium on applications for building within this 1,000-acre plot of land. The decision will affect 200 property owners.

“This is the only way we can make sure we do the right thing and we have state-of-the-art development,’ said Mayor Grace Vargas, a real-estate agent.

Agents for area property owners said the moratorium will stunt growth and affect property values between Ayala and Alder avenues and Casmalia Street and Base Line.

“If these people can’t sell their property this year, and the market goes down, are you guys going to be responsible for that loss?’ asked Anthony Maricic, a real-estate agent.

No one answered him.

The moratorium was approved for 45 days. During that time, the city will notify property owners of a public hearing Feb. 1, when the council will decide whether to extend it until Dec. 21, 2006. Laws prevent further extension.

The moratorium does not prohibit development in the area, said Robb Steel, Rialto’s economic development director. The Planning Commission and City Council have the ability to review projects case by case.

Steel said small projects near the periphery have the best chance of being permitted, but they would need to be conducive with future plans for the area.

“The purpose of the moratorium is to give (the council) a little time to determine the airport’s destiny,’ Steel said.

Officials have said the airport area is a “last stand’ for job creation and major development. They envision a master-planned community with houses, offices and retail centers modeled after pricey and popular Sierra Lakes in Fontana.

Lewis Investments, which developed Sierra Lakes, is in exclusive negotiations with Rialto and will present a master plan for the airport in the spring.

The second phase of the airport asset strategy will be ready in February or March, Steel said. The first phase suggested either scaling back the airport, which is a money pit, or closing it altogether.