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SLO won't reconsider override of airport commission

The San Luis Obispo City Council won’t reconsider a vote taken last year to override a ruling by the San Luis Obispo County Airport Land Use Commission that would have limited development near the local airport.

In March, a Caltrans deputy attorney asked the council to reassess “the improper overrule of the ALUC and the rescinding of its airport land use compatibility plan.”

In a letter to Caltrans mailed Friday, City Attorney Christine Dietrick wrote the time period had long passed for the council to reconsider any of its actions on the city’s updated General Plan — its blueprint for growth — which will shape development for the next 20 years.

Council members were not interested in further discussing their past actions on the city’s land use and circulation element (LUCE), she added.

The council voted 4-1 in December to override the airport commission’s ruling that the city’s updated General Plan is inconsistent with its own airport land use plan — which, based on noise and safety concerns, limits development near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

The city hired an expert in airport planning who concluded that the commission's safety zones were larger than necessary and that the city’s long-term development plans meet state airport safety guidelines.

“To be clear, the city’s adopted LUCE update and the related zoning regulations neither propose nor allow any incompatible land uses near San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport,” Dietrick wrote.

Caltrans officials were not available Monday for comment on the city's response.

The General Plan envisions new developments in the southern section of the city where the airport is located. They include the 131-acre San Luis Ranch planned for the former Dalidio property on Madonna Road and the 150-acre Avila Ranch on the north side of Buckley Road.

The Airport Land Use Commission will get a chance to weigh in on the specific projects. Before the developments can be approved by the City Council, the plans will be referred to the commission for consideration of whether they’re consistent with the commission’s airport land use plan.

The Caltrans letter states that construction of new homes in the areas surrounding the airport’s safety zones will create new noise and safety problems for residents and the airport.

As an example, Caltrans Deputy Attorney Raiyn Bain pointed to the Santa Monica Municipal Airport, which may be closed because of complaints about noise, safety and pollution from residents, some of whom live as close as 300 feet from the runway.

But Dietrick said San Luis Obispo is in a very different situation: The council is supportive of the airport, and the San Luis Ranch and Avila Ranch developments have directions to reserve 50 percent of each area as open space.

The preliminary specific plan for San Luis Ranch shows future homes situated nearly two miles from the end of the airport’s primary runway, she added. The Avila Ranch preliminary plan shows homes almost a mile from the end of the minor runway.

“The city has demonstrated an absolute attention and commitment to the safety and well-being of the citizens of San Luis Obispo and the long-term economic vitality of the airport,” Dietrick wrote.

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