Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Commission leans against 108-home plan near airport
By ANDREA FEATHERS
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts
REDLANDS Planning commissioners on Tuesday left little hope for proposed zone changes that would allow 108 homes to be built on 42 acres near the Redlands Municipal Airport. Although the commission postponed any decision on the projects, the five present commissioners unanimously agreed that zone changes from agricultural to residential would create noise problems for future residents and could lead to regulations that would harm business at the airport.
Commissioner Paul Thompson summed up the opinions of the commission when he said, “Even though this project is consistent with the General Plan and the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan I think the airport is too big of an asset to the city for any number of reasons to allow this change in zone.”
“The action you’ve decided to take is inappropriate and maybe illegal,” owner Everett Hughes said. “If we try to foresee every problem that could ever occur, nothing could ever get approved.”
City Attorney Dan McHugh said that the city is under no legal obligation to change the zoning at the site.
The project, proposed by Walton Development, would build 75 houses on the west side of Judson Street and 33 houses on the east side of Judson Street between Pioneer and San Bernardino avenues.
A 12-acre strip of land on the north portion of the development would be fenced off and maintained as a sparse river wash habitat for the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat, which has been found on the site.
The developer is also requesting an agricultural preserve removal. About half the site is farmed with citrus groves.
According to staff, the development is consistent with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. Only the mitigation land is in Zone B2, which has more stringent restrictions than the Zone C that the rest of the land is in. Zone C allows for residential uses of a density up to six units per acre.
Years ago, the B2 zone extended to San Bernardino Avenue. It was changed to accommodate the sports park, an undeveloped city park planned for land at San Bernardino and Wabash avenues.
Airport users Tuesday said they had no input on the change. They had hoped to accommodate development by getting the Federal Aviation Administration to approve a change in the helicopter flight pattern to northern route that would have fewer impacts on residents and businesses to the south. The agency denied the request.
Airport Advisory Board member Bob Pearce said the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan does not represent current practices and the recent increase in flights at the airport.
Airport user Eric Paul called the development the first step in choking the airport.
“For some reason, developers are magnetically attracted to airports,” Paul said. “No matter how remote an airport is, somebody always want to build next to it.”
Complaints from new homeowners will trigger lawsuits that will eventually result in the kind of restrictions that other encroached-upon airports have to deal with, according to Paul.
“There’s no question there will be complaints from these people,” said Airport Advisory Board member Bill Ingraham “This won’t be an occasional nuisance for them.”
Staff was also concerned with using the mitigation land as part of the required 20 percent open space for the planned residential development. Originally, the developer had planned to plant orange groves that would match landscaping at other neighboring developments.
“This project would have looked very similar to that if it hadn’t discovered the k-rat alongside the shoulder of the road,” said developer representative Pat Meyer.
He suggested that, if the commission reconsidered approving the zone change, the developer might add more open space in the southern portion of the development. The mitigation land could then be excluded from the developable land, somewhat reducing the open space requirement.
Commissioners were also concerned about who would be responsible for maintaining the kangaroo rat mitigation land consistent with regulations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Chairman George Webber worried that, if left in the hands of a homeowners’ association, the agency could come to Redlands only to find out that the mitigation land has turned into a “teenage hunting zone.”
“As time goes on, who maintains the fence if someone gets in and has a party in there?” he asked.