Redlands Airport- Development Pressure Still On

Friday, April 28, 2006
Citizens voice concerns about homes near airport
BY COLLEEN MENSCHING
The Redlands (CA) Daily Facts

REDLANDS – About 30 people attended a brief presentation Thursday night by consultants who will help the City Council decide whether an 81-home development should be cleared for take off near the Redlands Municipal Airport. Representatives from Coffman and Associates, based in Missouri and Arizona, emphasized their firm’s experience in airport planning, including airport land use compatibility plans, environmental document preparation and airport master planning.

The city retained Coffman in March, at a cost not to exceed $20,000, after a series of grant-related delays to the anticipated update of the Airport Master Plan.

Coffman representative Dave Fitz told the audience that Thursday’s meeting was just the beginning of his company’s evaluation of the Redlands airport and potential development in the surrounding area.

“We’ve just started to get out feet wet. `We really want to learn what’s going on,” said Fitz.

To that end, the consultants recorded the public comments made by Redlands aviation enthusiasts as well as representatives of Walton Development LLC, the company that wants to develop its 32.5 acres near the airport.

In October the Planning Commission denied the Walton project, citing incompatibility with the airport.

Walton – and Walton attorneys – appealed to the City Council on the grounds that the project conforms to the General Plan and the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan. Walton also told the city that the project will provide more than $5 million in street and sewer improvements. (Editor’s Note: Classic ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach. Send in the attorney’s to intimidate the city, then offer improvements if the proposal is approved).

Everett W. Hughes Jr., president of Walton Development, said Thursday that he takes offense to suggestions that he is an out-of-towner who has no right to develop in Redlands.

“We own more property in (Redlands) than probably anyone else except the city,” said Hughes. “We’ve met every standard and condition there is (for development).”

Walton has hit stumbling blocks both overhead and underfoot on its property. There are already a few structures on some of the land, and approval of the residential project requires zone changes by the city.

About 10 acres of Walton property underneath the airport’s flyover area have been promised as open space and San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat habitat, but local aviators fear that general aviation airports are the real endangered species.

A recent Los Angeles Times article suggested a trend of closing general aviation airports as residential development encroaches on them and named the Redlands airport as one in jeopardy.

Several Redlanders speaking against the project said the city could expect lawsuits of safety and noise issues of homes got closer to the airport than the are not. Airport Advisory Board member Bob Pearce said it cost San Francisco $800,000 to handle airport-related noise complaints.

“I don’t want the city of Redlands to go through the same process,” said Pearce.

The Redlands Sports Park, which is under construction, and light industrial buildings are more suitable types of development, according to some.

Others, like Calvin McLean, who also owns land in the area that he would like use for houses, fear that light industrial development would depress the value of the homes that are already there.

Hughes said that projected growth for the Redlands airport, which he put between two and three additional planes per year, was too low to cause a conflict with new residents in the area. Pearce said it was the growth estimate that was too low and failed to take in to account the closing of other general aviation airports, such as the one expected to be shut down in Rialto.

Coffman and Associates expect to have their preliminary review of the Redlands situation finished by the regularly scheduled June 20 council meeting, according to a staff report by senior planner Asher Hartel.

The council must act on the Walton appeal no later than June 30, the report said.

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