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Airport-area guidelines nearing takeoff

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Airport officials and planning commissioners are closer to forming development guidelines for land near the Stafford Regional Airport.

Edward Wallis, director of the Stafford Regional Airport, said that a committee of planning commissioners and airport authority officials is 95 percent in agreement over new draft recommendations produced by Stafford County staff.

But the committee is still sparring over the one issue that caused it to form in the first place: how to treat residential development within 10,000 feet of the runway and under the flight pattern of aircraft.

Airport officials still want to draw a firmer line in how the county would look at residential development in that area.

The county staff’s latest recommendations identified zones around the airport with even more specificity than previous recommendations. Within each zone, staff labeled different land uses as compatible, non-compatible or in need of additional review.

The recommendations carve out a new zone that includes an area that airport officials called “hot spots.” In those spots, aircraft turn and generate more noise, and there is an increased accident probability.

Townhouses, multifamily units and other development like nursing homes should be considered non-compatible within that zone, the staff recommendation said. Single-family residential development of 3 or more acres would need additional review in that zone, according to the recommendations.

But the staff stuck to its previous recommendations by saying that all types of residential development in another zone that includes the aircraft’s flight pattern would need additional review.

The county staff added more criteria such as encouraging the clustering of houses and encouraging residences to be built with noise mitigation measures.

Some airport officials have said that residential development should be considered non-compatible there.

“Additional review doesn’t come down firmly enough to highlight to potential developers that residential is not encouraged in those areas. And so we feel like it needs to be a little bit stronger,” Lindy Kirkland, an airport authority member, said Wednesday.

Planning Commissioner and committee member Darrell English said that the staff will continue to flesh out the criteria for the additional review.

The end result of the committee’s work will be an airport land-use plan, which will identify compatible land uses around the airport and act as a guiding document for developers looking to build around the facility.

Airport officials wished such a plan was in place before the Oakenwold development proposal came about.

Oakenwold could bring up to 650 residential units and up to 250,000 square feet of commercial space southwest of the airport.

At its closest point, Oakenwold is 3,600 feet from the center of the runway and would fall under the flight pattern of the aircraft. The airport’s opposition to Oakenwold prompted the committee to form.

The Oakenwold proposal is now before the Board of Supervisors for possible approval or rejection.

In the meantime, the committee hopes to have the land-use plan ready by early fall.

“At the end of the day, I think we are going to have a very good, thought-out plan that might serve as a model for other airports,” Kirkland said. “It’s going to boil down to that area under the flight pattern of the aircraft.”

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975