Airport safety zone plan conflicts with San Luis Obispo's growth plans

The plan could significantly limit the potential of land the city has long seen as critical to future growth.

acornejo@thetribunenews.comApril 20, 2013 

A plan that could expand the safety zones at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport is raising concerns about the possible limitations it could force on development.

The plan could significantly limit the potential of land the city has long seen as critical to future growth.

As the city began updating its own land-use plan, a key blueprint for development, it became increasingly worried that the safety boundaries were not clearly mapped or defined, said Kim Murry, deputy director of long-range planning.

The Airport Land Use Plan mitigates safety and noise issues. The Airport Land Use Commission, a seven-member autonomous committee created by the city’s Public Utilities Code, agreed that it was time to revise the plan and make those boundaries clearer.

However, once the city began plotting the boundaries onto maps using GIS software, some of the safety areas became significantly larger than anticipated, said Murry.

“The zones for more restrictive safety areas grew a lot and are now affecting properties not affected before,” said Murry.

The city is asking the Airport Land Use Commission to re-evaluate the formula it is using to set certain safety boundaries and instead rely on state recommendations, which would not be as expansive.

The specific impacts of expanded safety zone boundaries remain unknown, said Murry.

However, the Airport Area Specific Plan, approved by the city in the 1990s to guide development in that area, would have to be reviewed for impacts to the densities planned for the area, Murry said.

The dispute prompted the Economic Vitality Corp. to write a letter last week airing its concerns to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.

“The proposed restrictions would also conflict with the goal of creating more jobs,” wrote Michael Manchak, EVC President and CEO. “At a time when jobs are needed most, economic theory and experience show that these effects can be harmful to the finances of the city and the county.”

The impact on future housing and business expansion would be detrimental, Manchak said.

Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes areas near the airport, has similar concerns about the possibility of the expanded safety boundaries stifling future housing needs.

“I am supportive of the city’s position,” said Hill. “We need to help our cities, especially San Luis Obispo, which is the biggest employer, provide more housing.”

Commissioner Robert Tefft, who is working with the city on the update, was out of town and could not be reached for comment Friday.

Murry said the city has a long history of working in concert with the airport commission to make decisions about land use.

For example, 1,200 homes were once planned for the Margarita area. That number dropped to about 850 based on the commission’s recommendations.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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