Redlands Municipal Airport- Housing Development Pressure

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Subdivision near airport is denied
REDLANDS: Planning commissioners feared more noise complaints. The builder will appeal.
By NAOMI KRESGE
The Riverside (CA) Press-Enterprise

REDLANDS – City planning commissioners moved Tuesday to protect Redlands Municipal Airport from development pressure. Responding to airport advocates, the commission voted 5-0 against an 81-home subdivision it deemed too close to the airport. The Walton Development project would have built on about 42 acres between Pioneer and San Bernardino avenues at Judson Street, south of the 180-acre airport.

The project has been delayed since June, when the commission signed off on the environmental paperwork but questioned the sense of building homes so close to the flight path of airplanes and helicopters.

“The airport is a valuable asset that we have to protect,” Commissioner Paul Thompson said.

Commissioner Caroline Laymon recused herself from voting and Commissioner Gary Miller was absent.

Walton representative Everett Hughes said after the meeting that the developer would appeal to the City Council. Walton has argued from the beginning that it followed city rules when it applied to build the subdivision, but that the city changed its rules after pressure from airport supporters.

Pilots and airport boosters prize Redlands Municipal in part because it allows flights around the clock, and fear that having more residents in the area will lead to more noise complaints and ultimately to flight restrictions.

Attempting to bolster its case, Walton took the unusual step of petitioning the commission several times directly by letter and sending leaflets to residents around the airport.

The airport neighbors responded by peppering the city with complaints about noise, something Thompson said made him believe it would be a bad idea to build more houses near the airport.

In the area now are new subdivisions juxtaposed with open fields and narrow roads lined with old cut-stone walls.

The Walton plan was one of several subdivisions proposed after changes in planning rules in 2003 to allow a sports park opened more land to residential development.

But by last spring, when the Walton plan was ready for its first commission hearing, the city had been worrying for months about the effect that so much residential development could have on the airport.

Officials began considering tightening development rules again.

“We really ended up kind of in a big mess and need to back off,” Planning Commission Chairman George Webber said.

Now officials are working on a long-term plan for the airport. They want to use it to write rules for what can be built around the airport.

The council is expected to consider a temporary ban on residential development near the airport, which if extended could put development in the area on hold for up to two years.

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