Stockton- Freeze Proposed on New Houses Near Airport

Freeze proposed on new houses near airport Greg Kane Record Staff Writer Published Wednesday, Aug 23, 2006 STOCKTON – A San Joaquin County lawmaker Tuesday suggested a moratorium on new housing near Stockton Metropolitan Airport while plans for a growth boundary surrounding the airport are developed. Supervisor Victor Mow said a freeze on new housing projects within a 2-mile radius of the airport would give county officials more time to develop a “protective zone” permanently limiting residential development in the area. The board agreed unanimously Tuesday to explore imposing such a growth boundary to protect the airport from potential noise and safety complaints that might come from a flood of new residents.

Stockton-based Arnaiz Development Co. plans to build more than 2,100 homes on 880 acres in the area most of the board members want to protect. A growth boundary or a moratorium likely would be a major blow to the Tidewater Crossing project, which has yet to turn a shovel of dirt while developers wait for an environmental review to be completed.

Board members repeatedly distanced plans for the protective zone from Tidewater, by far the largest residential project proposed in the area. But Supervisor Leroy Ornellas, who said he voted with the board only to learn more about a potential growth boundary, believes his colleagues’ call for a moratorium and buffer is driven largely by a desire to stop the large project.

“That’s all I heard was, ‘Tidewater,’ ‘Tidewater,'” Ornellas said after the hearing. “That’s very treacherous waters we’re floating on here when we single out a project.”

County officials are expected in the next month to research methods for creating a growth boundary surrounding the airport before returning to the board for further action. The county has two options, officials said: to create the buffer through its own Planning Department or to hand the decision over to the Airport Land Use Commission, which is under the authority of the San Joaquin Council of Governments.

Kerry Sullivan, the county’s community development director, told the board both options likely would be time-consuming, because the changes are subject to state environmental review.

Creating the buffer through a county department would allow the board more input into the plan’s specifics, which Mow said after the hearing he would prefer.

The moratorium, Mow said, would give the county time to protect the airport from encroaching development while plans for a buffer are developed.

But several people associated with the Tidewater project said after the hearing that such a ban likely wouldn’t hold up legally.

“I don’t know that they can make the findings for a moratorium,” said Arthur Coon, an attorney who represents landowners involved with Tidewater. “The project fully complies with the airport’s (existing) plans.”

Matt Arnaiz, the development company’s president, agreed that the project complies with both the airport’s Land Use Plan and the city’s draft General Plan.

He called the moratorium suggestion extreme and said he feels as if his project is being targeted by the board.

The concept of a growth boundary was first suggested at a county hearing last month about the Tidewater project.

Airport Director Barry Rondinella and other airport officials from across Northern California told the board that building new homes in an area where planes take off and land would likely lead to noise complaints that could force the airport to limit its hours of operation.

But developers say all of Tidewater’s homes would sit well outside the 60-decibel noise boundary set by the Federal Aviation Administration for development near airports.

Most of the proposed homes would be at least a mile from the airport’s runway and away from takeoff and landing patterns, planners said.

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