By Mark Carlisle
Glendale’s Aviation Advisory Commission told Phoenix to keep homes away from its airport.
The commission voted unanimously to formally state its opposition to a planned housing development to the Phoenix City Council and Planning Commission, citing noise and safety concerns in the event of a crash. The development is on the Phoenix side of the Glendale-Phoenix border, but less than a mile from the Glendale Municipal Airport.
“There are thousands of acres around this Valley that are good for homes, but there are places that homes shouldn’t be, like in the bottom of a riverbed or right next to an airport,” said commission chair Larry Rovey after the commission’s Feb. 21 meeting. “You just don’t build ‘em there. There’s other uses that can go there.”
Mattamy Homes is attempting to build a housing complex north of the Camelback Ranch spring training facility and southeast of the Glendale airport. Because the land is in Phoenix, the Phoenix City Council will make any final decisions. Phoenix seems to be ready to move forward with the housing complex, but it is discussing what form the complex will take. The city government is reviewing a planning variance request to change how many residences per acre are allowed on the site.
Glendale aviation commissioner Terry Aramian of the Barrel District said he was in favor of a statement of opposition but was not optimistic the Phoenix government would heed their advice.
“You’re not going to win this fight,” he said to his fellow commissioners during the meeting. “They’re going to build houses there regardless.”
Quentin Tolby of the Cactus District, agreed it probably wouldn’t do much good, but thought it was important to go on record.
“We in the city feel it would be detrimental not only to the airport but to any citizen who would build in that location for obvious reasons: noise, safety,” Mr. Tolby said, verbally drafting an impromptu statement that airport staff would later finalize and send to Phoenix officials.
The matter will first go before a Phoenix Village Planning Committee for the Maryvale Wednesday, March 14, and will come before the Phoenix Planning Commission Wednesday, April 4. A date has not been set on when the issue will come to Council.
Mr. Rovey, who was vice chair at the time of the meeting, but was appointed chair Feb. 27, said noise is a bigger concern than safety, but commissioners did note that many novice pilots train at the airport.
Steve Fox who runs a flight school out of Glendale airport and owns Fox Aviation and Recovery, called the proposed residential development “stupid” and said after the meeting that a potential crash could spark conflict between the airport and the residents of the complex.
“One of these (Cessna) 172s land-darts, one of these in their backyards, they’ll be trying to shut the airport down,” Mr. Fox said after the Feb. 21 commission meeting, which he attended.
Mr. Rovey pointed out that such an action would harm businesses like Mr. Fox’s that use the airport.
The home developers, on the request of the Phoenix Aviation Department, included a notice to all potential residents of the noise and safety risk associated with being near an airport, but Mr. Rovey said it won’t make a difference regarding complaints.
“A new home buyer, they’re all glassy-eyed, and granted there’s a notice in all the paperwork they have to sign, and they gladly sign all that,” he said. “But six months down the road when they start making their mortgage payments and (hear) the noise, and they say ‘Hey, wait a minute. This isn’t what I was expecting.’ They don’t hear anything when they first move in, but after they’ve been there for a while and the sign wears off.”
Another stipulation required by the Phoenix Aviation Department requires the developer to “certify that the homes will be constructed in a matter that will reduce interior noise level.”
Mr. Fox noted that the complex will have some homes with yards, meaning homeowners will want to be outside, maybe with pets, which he said isn’t compatible with the noise levels near an airport.
“It ought to be made industrial, that’s it,” Mr. Fox said.
Commissioners also mentioned that walls can only do so much to keep noise out.
The airports’ traffic would be heading the residents’ way, too. Most flights take off to the east, toward the planned development, in order to not interfere with Luke Air Force Base’s operations to the west.
The airport has a helicopter flight school that flies to the east, Mr. Rovey said, noting that helicopters are noisy and fly closer to the ground than planes.
The airport receives plenty of complaints as it is, with no residences nearly as close as this development would bring them, Mr. Rovey said. Residents of Country Meadows Townhouses complains about noise to the airport. Those homes are more than two miles to the north. The closest homes in the Mattamy Homes complex will be about two-thirds of a miles away.
The Phoenix land was previously owned by Glendale, as part of the purchase of Camelback Ranch, and planned for commercial development or possibly a resort, but the plans did not come to fruition and Glendale later sold the land.
Mark Carlisle can be reached at 623-876-2518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.