Wednesday, October 5, 2005
Council considers moratorium on housing near municipal airport
By Jacob Ogles
The San Bernardino (CA) Sun
REDLANDS – Officials here haven’t decided how close homes should be to the airport, but they are poised to stop any proposals for development in the area for at least a year. A moratorium on new housing approvals near the Redlands Municipal Airport is in the works. City Council members are expected to vote on the issue in early November.
Despite objections from developers who have invested millions in plans for homes in the area, a majority of council members said they wanted to explore a moratorium until a master plan for the airport is complete.
Airport officials who want to extend the runway for larger jets expect the master plan to take roughly a year to complete. Land-use designations on surrounding properties would go into effect about three months later, they say.
The council is sharply divided on the prospect of a moratorium, with two council members favoring the move, two strictly opposed, and one who wants the issue further explored by city planners.
Councilman Jon Harrison said he wants to know what financial effects there might be on property owners and how long a moratorium would last.
But Councilwoman Pat Gilbreath, an amateur pilot, said the airport plan could be finished without delaying pending development requests.
“We need to be able to develop and keep the viability of the airport area,” Gilbreath said.
Aviation experts testified to the council Tuesday that continued development near the airport could severely hamper any future endeavors at the airport. The Redlands facility is one of two airports in Southern California that typically operates at all hours with no flight-plan restrictions.
Mark Kranenburg, aviation director for Riverside Airport, said it would be shortsighted to allow development to encroach on the airport. His wife, Charlotte, is the Redlands airport director.
Open space allows loud planes to operate throughout the night without seriously disrupting neighbors and provides safe landing space for out-of-control planes.
He also said that the commercial promise that the airport provided the city was greater in the long term than new houses. “The airport is one of the most undervalued assets you have in the city of Redlands,” Kranenburg said.
While homes provide some property-tax revenue, aviation officials said the airport acts as an economic stimulus, attracting high-powered companies into the city.
A moratorium, however, would cost developers, who said the construction of homes would not have an adverse effect on any plans to expand the airport and that homeowners would know they had to deal with airport noises at the time of purchase.
Everett Hughes, president of Walden Homes, said his company has invested more than $3 million in plans for an 81-home subdivision on 42 acres near Judson Street. The application for that development has been tabled by the city Planning Commission multiple times since the summer.
“We expected to be completely approved by now,” Hughes said.
But the moratorium would delay any movement in that application until the airport master plan was done. And at the end of the moratorium, city officials could decide that the land should not be used for homes at all. City staff suggested moving restriction boundaries for home construction south to San Bernardino Avenue between University Street and Wabash Avenue. The restriction areas go just south of Pioneer Avenue now.
Developers from several companies, including Walden Homes and Ryland Homes, said they bought the property after the council moved the restriction line north in 2003. To change the prospect for land use now, they said, would set back the economic development of north Redlands and tarnish the city in the eyes of future developers.