Friday, June 24, 2005
How close to the airport should housing be?
Developer’s plans for 108 homes along Judson Street has airport managers worried about potential noise complaints
By ANDREA FEATHERS
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts
REDLANDS Housing developers crash-landing into the airport’s land use compatibility and master plans may get some clarity for the future of their projects if the city updates the two within the next year. Staff members of the Redlands Municipal Airport hope the updates can be funded within the next fiscal year, they said at a budget study session Wednesday.
The need for revisions that accurately reflect growth and current operations at the airport has come to a head during hearings over a housing development proposed by Walton Development. The company would change the zoning from agricultural to residential and build two housing tracts with a total of 108 houses on the east and west sides of Judson Street between Pioneer and San Bernardino avenues.
Airport users and managers argue that building houses too close to the airport will lead to noise complaints. Those complaints could grow into lawsuits or stifling noise regulations.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, the recommended certification of the project’s environmental impact report unexpectedly came under fire. Certification means that the city believes the analysis is complete, accurate and unbiased, but does indicate approval of the project.
Council members and airport users wanted more detailed noise studies and economic impacts to the airport if complaints cause restrictions.
“Our concern is that, if we certify this without recognizing those areas we feel that that would send a wrong message,” Airport Advisory Board Member George Lessard said.
“If the airport closes due to encroachment, like the one in Rialto, does the socioeconomic take into account the millions of dollars we would have to repay to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration)?” Council Member Gary George asked.
City staff, however, pointed out that such analysis would require an accurate and up-to-date master plan and land use compatibility plan.
This was the route Walton representative Pat Meyer has advocated over the past few months, as it became apparent that both sides would not come to a compromise.
A 2003 change in the land use compatibility plan, which was made to accommodate the city’s proposed sports park, opened the door for closer development.
“There were several landowners that were caught in this change,” Meyer told the council Tuesday. “They’ve made tremendous investments in your community and they just want time to think it through.”
Mayor Susan Peppler suggested not approving the environmental impact report.
“When there is so much concern, you think, why not address it now rather than continue to move it forward?” she said.
The council ultimately decided to give the developer time to complete more extensive noise studies and evaluate their options at Tuesday’s budget study session.
During Wednesday’s budget study of the airport’s finances, Mayor Pro Tem Gilberto Gil objected to the extent of the Airport Advisory Board’s involvement with land use near the airport.
“They should leave the politics to those that are elected,” Gil said.
Council members Gary George and Pat Gilbreath argued that advocating for policies that protect the airport is actually what the board should do.
The Municipal Code states that the board has “the power and duty to act in an advisory capacity to the City Council in all matters pertaining to the administration, operation, development, improvement and maintenance of the Redlands Municipal Airport.”