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Airport land-use plan outlined for planners

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Officials from the Stafford Regional Airport unveiled their draft recommendations for how the land around the airport should be used in advance of the Planning Commission’s vote on a proposed mixed-use development near the airport. 

The recommendations were introduced at a joint committee meeting Thursday before some county planning commissioners and county staff.

The development called Oakenwold prompted the airport to begin crafting the recommendations.

The president of a Woodbridge-based engineering firm, John “Skip” Groupe IV, and his son, John “Johnny” Groupe V, have applied to rezone the 232-acre site along Centreport Parkway from agricultural to planned-traditional neighborhood development.

The Oakenwold developers are under contract to buy the 232-acre parcel from Michelle Moncure. The site is also near the location Legoland is considering for a theme park, and not far from the proposed George Washington Village, which would include 2,957 housing units and 1.85 million square feet of commercial space mainly along Interstate 95 between Courthouse and Ramoth Church roads.

Airport officials were originally supportive of the project when it called for the landowner to build homes that the current zoning allows for. But they began to express concerns once the rezoning application for denser development was put in.

Plans now call for 650 residential units and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space, which would be phased in with the residences. The residential units would include single-family detached homes, town houses and multifamily units. The developers also said that no residential construction will occur within 300 feet of Centreport Parkway.

At its closest point, the Oakenwold property is about 3,300 feet from the center line of the airport runway, according to the developer’s application.

For airport officials, that is not far enough.

“Residential development, particularly high-density development, is not compatible with airport operations due to aircraft noise impacts and for safety reasons,” the land-use report that airport officials submitted to the committee stated.

A Federal Aviation Administration land-use planning task force stated that the development of land uses that are not compatible with airports and aircraft noise is a growing concern across the country, according to the report.

The report gave recommendations for compatible zoning classifications near the airport. Agricultural is listed as one of the compatible zoning classifications.

“Compatible zoning classifications are consistent with FAA guidelines,” the report stated.

The planned traditional neighborhood development, the zoning classification which Oakenwold has applied for, was one of four incompatible zoning classifications listed.

Potentially compatible zoning classifications included suburban residential, urban residential, office, planned development and recreational business campus.

The committee noted that distance would be a factor in determining whether a proposed land use would be compatible.

The report also noted that the county’s current impact zone for the airport takes vertical obstructions into account but leaves out mentions of noise and vibration impacts.

“Ideally, residential development is discouraged from land surrounding airports due to safety and noise considerations,” Talbert & Bright, an engineering firm retained by the authority, said in the report.

Airport officials have expressed concern that noise and other complaints from Oakenwold residents could hamper the airport’s future growth. In the report, the airport’s traffic pattern is shown to expand over time along with a 1,000 foot runway extension.

The report also refers to the Washington State Department of Transportation Airports and Compatible Land-Use program guidebook. In that January 2011 document, noise is listed as one of the compatibility concerns with single and multi-family residential units near an airport.

“Noise has an impact on the community … and can even have an impact on property values,” Hamilton Palmer with the authority said.

In previous meetings, Clark Leming, the attorney representing the Oakenwold developers, has brought a witness before the Planning Commission who said that the noise impact on residents would be within acceptable levels.

In their application, the Oakenwold developers referred to a land-use guidebook from the state of Washington’s Department of Transportation.

The developers referenced a table that said that high density and intensity mixed use development is compatible for land that is at least 5,000 feet of the runway and within an urban growth boundary.

Even though the Oakenwold property is zoned agricultural, the county’s future land use plan identifies the site within an urban development area. Higher density mixed-use development is the recommended land use within urban development areas.

The urban development areas are currently under review by the county after the state erased the requirement for Stafford to identify such areas for growth. The Planning Commission recently recommended changes to the UDA’s to the Board of Supervisors. Mike Zuraf with the Stafford Department of Planning and Zoning told the committee that for the urban development area which Oakenwold would fall under, the Planning Commission recommended more commercial but did not limit residential if it was done in the right way.

The committee will gather information on noise and from other airports as they work to develop land use standards surrounding the airport. The county missed the December 2013 goal it set for itself to adhere to a policy in the comprehensive plan that states, “the county should develop land use compatibility standards for new development to conform to within the aircraft approach patterns of airports and landing strips.”

Airport officials said that they could see some conflicts with the county’s current zoning and future land use guides for the land surrounding the airport.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975


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