Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Council applauds housing near airport but wants to wait for update of its master plan
By Andrea Feathers
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts
REDLANDS – City Council members called a controversial development near the airport an attractive project Tuesday, but will wait 90 days to decide whether it is compatible with the city facility. By then, an update of the Airport Master Plan and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan should be finished or well under way. The council awarded a contract for the studies to Coffman and Associates at its afternoon meeting. “I think it’s in our best interest and the city’s best interest to wait for the update to the airport master plan,” Council Member Susan Peppler said.
Pat Gilbreath said she thinks the development can ultimately be compatible with the airport.
“I’m not prepared to deny the project,” said Mayor Pro Tem Pat Gilbreath. “I think it’s a very viable project. We need this medium-range housing for our housing element.”
The 81-home Walton Development has raised fears that building homes too close to the San Bernardino Avenue airport will increase complaints and possible lawsuits and encourage regulations that would limit the airport’s operations.
The project involves building 81 homes on the 42 acres on the east and west sides of Judson Street between San Bernardino and Pioneer avenues. Land on the north sides of the airport’s B2 line would remain open space.
“We ve met all the regulations that the city has set before us and revised our project several times,” said developer Everett Hughes.
“We’re not proposing to shut down the airport,” said Rick Brown, a developer who is hoping to build homes on land nearby. “We’re just trying to build what the city has laid down the groundwork for.”
Airport user Eric Paul said complaints from nearby residents have forced other regional airports to implement expensive noise monitoring and mitigation programs.
“We still have an opportunity not to go down this road,” he said. “Let s not make the mistake that Santa Monica, Torrance and other airports made.”
Airport user David Crosswhite said the city should look for more compatible commercial-industrial projects like the contractor’s yard under construction near the sports park.
Resident Oscar Sepp said citizens could be willing to launch an initiative campaign if they believe the council has threatened the airport’s viability.
“I don’t know how many times it’s going to take to get you council members to go to the trough to drink the holy water, but we do not want this,” he said.
Dan Eliseuson pointed out that, in addition to its recreation and business uses, the airport has also been utilized by emergency workers during mountain fires.
“About the only thing the Redlands airport is not good for,” he said, “is drug smuggling.”
Mayor Jon Harrison also asked City Attorney Dan McHugh to research the possibilities for using the project’s kangaroo rat habitat area as recreational open space if the city is able to offer offsite mitigation as part of an area conservation bank that it is studying.
The project is set to return to the council April 18.