by Evan McLean
Clallam County, WA - Planned airport-area land-use regulations will not be as intrusive into property rights as first presented a year ago.
County planners heard the pleas from landowners in several public hearings over the past year and a half.
“After hearing negative feedback, we took another look at recommended regulation,” planner Chad Theismann said. “We took away what rules we could while still meeting Growth Management Act regulations.”
The county’s plans are guided by the GMA and other state guidelines for compatible land use around airports. The key objective is to protect airports, the people who use them and the people who live around them, according to Theismann, who spoke at an Experimental Aircraft Association meeting in Carlsborg near the Blue Ribbon Air Field.
“These recommendations will only apply to the five public airports in Clallam County,” Theismann said. “Private air strips like Blue Ribbon will not be affected.”
He said one of the changes in planning that the county took was to identify individual characteristics for each of the five airports: Sequim Valley Airport, Fairchild International, Sekiu Airport, Quilleute Airport and the Forks Municipal Airport.
“Sequim Valley is the first we want to get on the books in 2007,” Theismann said. “Our recommendations really don’t change much of the land use or height standards, since most of the compatibility zones would be on airport property.”
The zones are listed from one, with the highest risk to zone six, a larger oval around the airport that restricts certain land uses like landfills or particulate discharge manufacturing. Should county commissioners institute the recommendations, they would only affect new development.
“We took away the recommended zone 3 from the Sequim Valley airport overlay due to those individual characteristics we began looking at last year,” Theismann said.
Donna Sommer, program director for the Experimental Aircraft Association, said that Sequim Valley Airport and its associated pilots have been policing themselves for years, which is why there is so little effect foreseen from the proposed zoning overlay.
“It was important for us to see that Chad heard our grievances,” she said. “These recommendations will not bring anything new to the airport.”
Sommer said many people in the area were worried that the county’s airport regulation would invite larger commercial aircraft. She said that cannot be the case because of the size of the landing strip.
Sequim Valley’s highest risk zones are on airport property and do not affect land use surrounding the runway. Some of the middle risk zones do overlap unincorporated county tracts. The suggested density for those overlay zones matches the zone already in place in virtually all circumstances, Theismann said.
The details for other airports’ overlays have not been refined to degree Sequim Valley’s has.
Theismann said that airports are essential facilities and reported $23 million in revenue in 2003 from the five public use airports.
“One of the main negative comments we got were for disclosure, and that isn’t likely to change,” he said.
Theismann said that people in the area know they live near an airport, but those looking to buy in the future may overlook that detail. The recommendation will likely propose a requirement that a notice be affixed to land titles that are in a vicinity of the airport.
“This isn’t going to amend or reform a land title in any way,” he said. “It will only be attached as reference for people when they are looking to buy a home.”
Theismann will be making a presentation to the planning commission in coming months to prepare the recommendations for the county commissioners. He said there will be more time for public comment at those meetings.