Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Board: Housing would impair airport growth
By Greg Kane
The Stockton (CA) Record
STOCKTON – San Joaquin County officials dug in Tuesday for yet another fight over development across Airport Way from Stockton Metropolitan Airport, this time to prevent 2,100 proposed homes from being built.
Most of the county’s five elected supervisors during a three-hour hearing Tuesday said Stockton-based Arnaiz Development Co.’s Tidewater Crossing project likely would impair the airport’s potential for future growth. The 880-acre subdivision, which also would include industrial and commercial development in an area now covered by fields and orchards, is in the early planning stages with the city.
The board’s sentiment echoed that of airport Director Barry Rondinella, who has warned for months that new residents so close to the airport could complain about the noise and possibly lead to a limit on the airport’s hours of operation. Several board members said they want to discuss a growth boundary that would limit residential development within a 2-mile radius of the airport – a buffer that would eliminate all of Tidewater’s proposed homes.
“The time to get ahead of the curve is now,” Supervisor Jack Sieglock said. “Not 10 years from now.”
Representatives from Arnaiz Development declined to respond to comments by board members Tuesday. But Mike Hakeem, a Stockton attorney representing the firm, told the board the project complies with nearly all growth plans for the airport, county and city.
Stockton’s draft General Plan and the Airport Land Use Plan approved by the San Joaquin Council of Governments in the 1990s allow development in the area. The county’s own General Plan also allows home building in some portions of the proposed development.
“It would be rather incredulous that you would start changing your General Plan without any studies,” Hakeem told the board, referring to the project’s in-progress environmental study.
Under current guidelines, the county does not have any input into the project until after that environmental study is circulated for public review. The property is still on the county’s turf, but Stockton made clear its intentions to annex the property in its draft General Plan, which is expected to be approved within the next year.
Supervisor Victor Mow said Tuesday that he wants the county to be included in city-developer discussions about Tidewater as well as other projects near the airport. He does not want Stockton Metropolitan to become like airports in San Jose, San Diego and other cities that are surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
“You wonder, ‘My God, what made them put an airport here?'” Mow said of airports in other cities.
Hakeem said the project sits well outside of a 60-decibel noise threshold set by the Federal Aviation Administration for development near airports. But Rondinella and airport directors from Oakland, Modesto and Livermore who attended the hearing said those boundaries do not always matter once the homes are built.
Steven Grossman, the Port of Oakland’s aviation director for Oakland International Airport, said that airport routinely receives noise complaints even though few homes are within its 65-decibel range.
“Did it solve our problem? Absolutely not,” Grossman said.
Tidewater is not the first airport-related project about which the city and county have quarreled. In February, the board bickered with Stockton over sewer and water obligations to the proposed Airport East business park near Highway 99. Stockton wanted to absorb the airport and a portion of its tax revenues in exchange for the development-friendly services, but the county claimed existing agreements did not give the city the right to annexation.
The two sides reached a temporary agreement on one 21-acre parcel in an unsuccessful bid to lure a Blue Shield call center to the area. Officials on both sides continue to negotiate a compromise on the remainder.
The Board of Supervisors are scheduled to renew discussions on development near the airport in August.