Chandler anticipates more takeoffs, landings than feds are estimating
by Edythe Jensen – Nov. 9, 2011 09:15 AM
The Arizona Republic
The Federal Aviation Administration is taking issue with Chandler’s latest airport noise study and suggested in a newly released review that the city grossly overestimated future takeoffs and landings.
Deputy Public Works Director Dan Cook disagrees with the FAA findings and said the city will likely file a response in coming months. Flights decreased during the recession, but the numbers have recently stabilized and will start growing again, he said. And the FAA’s contention that the city’s consultant was off by 40 percent on projections for 2014 is wrong, he said.
The study, which was submitted to the FAA last year, had predicted 309,423 takeoffs and landings by 2014 and slightly adjusted noise contours based on flight numbers from 2009 and earlier. In a letter to the city, the FAA cited more recent flight records collected after the study was completed and suggested the 2014 estimate for takeoffs and landings should be only 185,457.
Neither the disputed numbers nor the final study outcome will deter Chandler’s efforts to attract new businesses around the airport because the highest noise levels because of flights have always been contained within airport property, Cook said.
And thousands of acres have been set aside for office and industrial uses that are compatible with airports, said Lori Quan, economic development specialist.
“The airpark-area plan with its 25 million square feet of non-residential space in 9 square miles is designed to protect the airport corridor,” she said. “We are specifically targeting industries that are not noise-sensitive.”
The temporary uncertainty, however, could create controversy in some zoning cases. That’s because municipal zoning rules restrict churches and day-care centers from flight areas that don’t fall under the FAA’s highest-noise threshold but which are noisy enough to be regulated by the city, planning administrator Jeff Kurtz said.
The first of those controversies surfaced last month when a preschool wanted to locate in an airport-area office park. The City Council voted, 4-3, to deny the permit but it is expected to come back for a second vote Nov. 17. Kurtz said no other airport-area zoning cases are pending.
Over the years, residents around the airport have complained about flights and the city moved its heliport. Chandler may revise the study report based on more current flight information, Cook said. But the process has been complicated by the sale of the consulting firm that did the original work and by the departure of one of its key officials.
The lengthy study draft with current and projected noise contour maps had been posted on the city’s and consultant’s websites for public inspection. It is no longer on either site, and city officials could not immediately provide access or say why it was removed.
The study itself was a slow process that cost $360,000 and took two years, beginning in 2008. Chandler submitted the draft results to the FAA more than a year ago and received the agency’s response last month.
This was an update of a 1999 noise study done as part of a voluntary federal program that guides planning for airport-noise compatibility.
If it is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport is eligible for federal noise-abatement grants, but Cook said the only areas of interest to the FAA are those in the highest-noise areas with day-night averages 65 decibels or louder. However, the city restricts zoning in areas where average decibel levels reach 55.
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