San Diego- Airport Authority Unveils New Land-use Rules

After years of debate, the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority has passed a lengthy set of new rules for five regional airports, including McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad and Oceanside Municipal Airport on
Highway 76. The new rules generally make it tougher to build densely populated residential or commercial developments close to the airports as a way of making sure the airports can still operate as communities grow.

However, the rules aren’t expected to clip the wings of any projects that were already approved before the airport authority ratified the latest planning documents.

One of the largest projects now on the drawing board is the 92-acre Pavilion development slated for a parcel that is now known as the Valley Drive-In directly east of the Oceanside Municipal Airport.

Several safety zones for the airport overlap the property and there was some question and protest when the airport authority first floated the new planning rules in 2005 that the zones would make the large commercial
development unworkable.

Jerry Hittleman, Oceanside’s planning director, said Friday that the Pavilion, proposed by developer Thomas Enterprises, would be able to go forward under the new airport rules because its buildings are placed out of
the facility’s flight path and are short enough not to block access to the small planes that glide to a stop there every day.

“Unless they were to come in with any changes then it would be able to go forward,” Hittleman said. “If they wanted to make changes to what has already been approved, then they would have to come back and go through the whole process again.”

At the moment that debate is academic. Mel Kuhnel, a representative of Thomas Enterprises, said Friday that the current poor lending climate will keep the project stalled for the time being.

“There just aren’t any lenders that are interested in a project like this in this economy,” Kuhnel said.

Hittleman said the new plan would also allow redevelopment of additional industrial parcels that surround the airport, though there have been no proposals to date.

Farther south in Carlsbad the airport authorities new development guidelines are said to have even less effect.

Ramona Finilla, a member of McClellan-Palomar’s board of directors, and a voting member of the regional airport authority, said that, because that airport has a voter-approved growth management plan, the regional guidelines will have little effect on what gets built and where. Add to that the fact that there are few if any parcels adjacent to the airport that have not already been developed.

She said generally that the new guidelines are designed to keep local airports accessible to pilots and to make sure that airports are good neighbors to the surrounding community.

“What it does is clearly explain to people and developers what kinds of uses are permitted around the runway,” she said.

Pilot Rick Beach, who participated in the multiyear debate over the new guidelines, said he is satisfied that rules will keep growth from swallowing regional airports.

“When you take off, you’ve got to have a place to land,” he said.