Is It Really About the Noise or Something Else? [Chapter 2]

Bill Dunn_3.png Last month, we began a discussion regarding airport noise and local communities with a basic overview of FAA requirements for compatible land use planning around airports and the fact that the Federal government has left the job of land use planning to the states.

There are a wide variety of methods currently being used by States to protect public use airports from non-compatible land uses or mitigate existing non-compatible uses. These can include land acquisition, building codes, adoption of avigation easements, tall structures regulations by adopting the existing FAA guidance (FAR Part 77); codifying the federal guidance in state statute or local government ordinance, community General Plans, real estate disclosure requirements, creation of airport safety zones with restrictions on amount of development in each zone, or Airport Land Use Commissions who in turn create a comprehensive airport land use plan with development restrictions. States, like Florida , Washington , New Jersey , and California & have excellent laws on the books and provide local communities with extensive planning tools and publications. Zoning restrictions are probably one of the least effective since zoning codes can be readily modified and changed at the will of the elected officials and with developer pressure.

Mandatory real estate disclosure laws currently exist in 23 states. Yet of those 23, only 5 have wording that could be interpreted as being specific to airports. They are California, Hawaii, Indiana, Michigan, and Tennessee. When new disclosure laws are proposed that will require notification of airports, professional real estate organizations strongly oppose these new laws since it is their belief such will have a negative impact on their ability to sell residential properties in areas adjacent to airports. Unfortunately, real estate disclosure is normally buried in the “fine-print” of the sales contracts.

Over my 23-years of direct involvement with these types of issues, I have heard stories from homeowners that their real estate professional assured them that the airport would soon close and not be an impact on their property. And then, there are those individuals that move into the area knowing full well there is an airport in their community. Their goal however is to work diligently to see that the airport is closed. Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and Reid Hillview (RHV) are perfect examples.

Where state or local laws exist, the actual enforcement is another story. Some existing laws provide enforcement activities to the local municipality –also including mechanisms to grant exemptions – while other state laws retain enforcement responsibilities for the state. In New Jersey, for example, Title 16 – Department of Transportation; Chapter 62. Air Safety and Zoning of NJ Statutes , requires every municipal government with a public use airport to create airport safety zones and prohibits government from classifying airports as a non-conforming land use. The same law requires local municipalities to provide these safety zone maps to realtors who must then notify potential purchasers of the airport’s location and that the property is located within an airport safety zone. However, several NJ local governments have refused to implement the lawful requirement and the State has refused to enforce the law. What good are these protections if they are not enforced?

Next month, I will discuss enforcement of compatible land use requirements.

4 Public Utilities Code sections 21670 – 21679.5 contain the statutes creating the Airport Land Use Commissions