Thursday, October 26, 2006
Highland tries looking ahead at development near airport
By Andrew Edwards
The San Bernardino (CA) Sun
HIGHLAND – In order to eliminate any confusion over who can build what and where near San Bernardino International Airport, the city is moving toward creating a special plan to outline possibilities for future development. The five-member City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to instruct city staffers to formulate a plan that details what kinds of future construction would be compatible with the airport’s possible future operations. Although the airport is in San Bernardino, it is close enough to Highland to affect its future, too. Airport expansion could help spur economic development in Highland, officials said.
Officials hope a plan would alleviate confusion over who has authority over construction near the airport.
A report prepared for the council by City Attorney Marguerite Battersby stated that in the past year, airport employees have “at least twice taken unilateral action to thwart new economic development in Highland.”
Michael Burrows, the airport’s assistant director, said Wednesday that he disagrees with such a harsh assessment.
Burrows said he remembers sending a letter to Newport Beach-based home builder William Lyon Homes, but he said the letter merely commented on the company’s plans and did not contain any warnings not to build.
Burrows said he did not recall the exact content of the letter, though the message likely related to William Lyon Homes’ proposal to build 121 condos near Fifth and Orange streets, an area that could be affected by jet noise and other airport-related annoyances.
Burrows affirmed that Highland, not the airport, has sole power to decide what kind of developments would make sense near the airport. He said he and other airport officials wholeheartedly support the council’s decision to craft a land-use plan.
“All of this is leaning in a very positive direction,” he said.
Highland’s economic development plans include the “Golden Triangle,” a residential and commercial hub that could be built on Fifth Street just east of Highway 30 and anticipated industrial growth along Fifth Street. Future construction in those areas could possibly be affected by airport operations.
On Tuesday, Battersby told council members that creating a plan that specifically accounts for airport-related issues could ease the approval process for proposed developments in those areas.
Airport officials are working on a new master plan for San Bernardino International, which Burrows said has been delayed by the amount of work required to complete environmental studies.
He held out the possibility that the airport’s plan could be ready for review by year-end.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Ross Jones said that while Highland officials can approve any plan they deem appropriate, the point of the land-use plan will not be to get a head start on the airport and set the stage for projects that could one day conflict with airport operations.
“It’s not a matter of Highland getting one-up on the airport or the airport getting one-up on Highland. It’s, `Let’s plan,”‘ Jones said.