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1 Research Background ACRP Research Report 206: Guidebook on Effective Land Use Compatibility Planning Strategies for General Aviation Airports is based on the research conducted under ACRP Project 04-22, âEvaluating Compatibility Zoning at General Aviation Airports.â The objective of the ACRP 04-22 study was to evaluate the success of state and local airport zoning laws and ordi- nances in preventing flight hazards and minimizing other land use compatibility conflicts around General Aviation (GA) airports. The study focused on six factors to assess the effec- tiveness of land use compatibility regulations for areas in the vicinity of GA airports: â¢ State Role Does the level of involvement by state aviation agencies in local land use compatibility planning influence success? â¢ Type of Regulation Is airport compatibility zoning the best method for regulating land uses around GA airports? â¢ Regulatory Context What are the essential elements of successful airport land use compatibility regulations? â¢ Adoption Are local agencies adopting airport land use compatibility regulations? If not, why? â¢ Implementation Are local agencies implementing airport land use compatibility regulations? If not, why? â¢ Outreach Is regular stakeholder outreach important? The research process for the project consisted of two principal steps: a literature review and interviews of airport managers and others familiar with airport land use compatibility issues. First, the research team reviewed a large collection of literature from past ACRP studies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the American Planning Association (APA), and other sources to identify the extent to which the airport land use compatibility topic has already been addressed and to glean information on the attributes of effective airport com- patibility zoning regulations. State airport zoning and compatibility laws were reviewed for all 50 states to determine the extent to which local governments are obligated to adopt land use compatibility regulations that protect GA airports and their neighbors. The principal means of evaluating the effectiveness of airport compatibility zoning was through interviews with a diverse group of GA airport managers, community planners, and other industry C H A P T E R 1 Introduction Appendix A presents a summary of statutes and regulations enacted by state.
2 Guidebook on Effective Land Use Compatibility Planning Strategies for General Aviation Airports stakeholders. The discussions provided diverse perspectives on the effectiveness of airport compatibility regulations or their limitations. The researchers interviewed 18 state aviation officials, 19 land use planners, and the operators of 44 GA airports across the country, including four airport authorities and four state aviation departments, to gain an understanding of the legal framework and status of local airport compatibility planning efforts for a cross-section of states and communities. To maintain some commonality among the interviews, a standard set of questions was developed. However, the interviewers also followed up with additional questions to get more detail on individual topics depending upon where the conversation led. The research found many differences in the compatibility circumstances from airport to airport. The differences were based on the character of the airport environsâurban versus suburban or rural, as well as institutional and personal factors. Despite the differences among airports and their communities, certain common themes became apparent from the interview responses. The research findings indicate that effective airport compatibility planning depends on numerous factors, varies by airport and community, and is very much context specific. Key takeaways for the original six factors assessed are summarized in Table 1-1. Guidebook Purpose The ACRP 04-22 research findings indicate that education, communication, and outreach are important factors that contribute to effective airport compatibility zoning. The findings also identified the need for a guidebook that would provide a succinct set of strategies to assist Factor Research Question Finding State Role Does involvement by state aviation agencies in local compatibility influence success? State-level airport compatibility standards and oversight are beneficial, unless regulations and enforcement are too rigid to give local governments flexibility to adopt regulations that meet local needs. Type of Regulations Is airport compatibility zoning the best method for regulating land uses around GA airports? Even if not dictated by state law, airport compatibility overlay zoning (the most common form of compatibility ordinance) is the most effective means of compiling all airport land use compatibility related standards into one set of regulations, which simplifies and improves implementation. Regulatory Context What are the essential elements of successful airport compatibility regulations? At a minimum, airport compatibility regulations should address airspace hazards. When appropriate, other noise and safety compatibility factors should be considered. Adoption Are local agencies adopting airport compatibility regulations? If not, why? Not consistently. Reasons include the perception that an airport zoning ordinance (AZO) is not needed, the importance of an AZO is not understood, or general opposition by the community to additional property restrictions. Implementation Are local agencies implementing airport compatibility regulations? If not, why? Not consistently for the same reasons noted above under âAdoption.â Outreach Is regular stakeholder outreach important? Regular dialogue between the airport manager and local government officials and land use professionals improves local government support of policies protecting the airport against encroachment of incompatible development and increases the effectiveness of existing ordinances. Effectiveness is enhanced when the airport manager leads the airport compatibility planning effort to defend, support, and advocate the cause. Table 1-1. Summary of research questions and findings.
Introduction 3 GA airport managers when pursuing the adoption and implementation of effective air- port compatibility regulations. This Guidebook is designed primarily for the airport manager to engage in discussions with local government decision makers and land use professionals to enhance current compatibility regulations. It will also assist other stakeholders involved in airport land use compatibility planning. The secondary users who will benefit from this Guidebook include state aviation regulatory agencies, regional and local planning agencies, and other industry professionals. A previous ACRP Report, ACRP Report 27: Enhancing Airport Land Use Compatibility, Volumes 1 through 3 provide a comprehensive and in-depth resource on the topic of compatible land uses near airports. This Guidebook is intended to supplement ACRP Report 27 by providing a concise source of information to enable the user to identify potential strategies and industry- proven practices for enhancing airport land use compatibility. The Guidebook directs the user through a step-by-step process for evaluating the status of airport land use compatibility and identifies approaches for forming effective airport compatibility regulations and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships with airport host communities. This Guidebook provides the user with: â¢ An overview of airport land use compatibility planning: â What is it? â Why is it important? â Who is responsible? â How is it accomplished? â What concerns does it address? â¢ Strategies and best practices for enhancing airport land use compatibility. â¢ Case study summaries and anecdotes to support key points made regarding lessons learned. â¢ Self-assessment tools to evaluate the status of airport land use compatibility. â¢ Resources for additional information on the topic. â¢ Sample tools, techniques, and forms to use. The Guidebook is based on the knowledge, expertise, opinions, and recommendations provided by airport and land use industry professionals during research interviews, literature reviews, and the research teamâs analyses of the data provided, with research findings shown below. The Guidebook relies upon proven techniques and tools currently used in the aviation and land use planning industries. Research Findings State Statutes Almost all states have enacted statutes that require or authorize adoption of local airport compatibility zoning ordinances. Only five states were identified as having no such laws, but even in certain of those states, local initiatives have led to adoption of compatibility zoning. Of the 45 states with relevant statutes, 20 mandate the adoption of local compatibility zoning laws and/or inclusion of compatibility in comprehensive planning. The remaining 25 states have adopted enabling legislation that authorizes, but does not require, local adoption of airport compatibility zoning ordinances. The research indicated that mandatory state statutes are not necessarily essential to imple- menting effective local compatibility zoning. Many municipalities and counties have used their power under enabling statutes to adopt ordinances. Further, many airport sponsors have taken it upon themselves to develop and promote adoption of airport zoning regulations that protect the airport against airspace hazards and incompatible land uses.
4 Guidebook on Effective Land Use Compatibility Planning Strategies for General Aviation Airports The greatest advantage of state-enacted airport compatibility laws is that they are helpful in raising awareness of the importance of protecting airports from the encroachment of incompatible land uses and airspace hazards. State airport compatibility laws also provide airport sponsors with the necessary justification to advocate local government adoption of airport land use compatibility regulations. States can also provide technical assistance, such as guidebooks, workshops, and model zoning ordinances to assist airport sponsors and other local agencies in adopting airport land use compatibility regulations. It is also helpful when aviation authorities respond to requests from airport sponsors to weigh in on local land use proposals that would be detrimental to the viability of an airport. Receiving state-level support on local land use matters often produces a positive outcome. The research identified several state-level-induced challenges facing airport sponsors and hindering local adoption of airport land use compatibility regulations. These challenges include: â¢ Local airport zoning regulations usually reflect and closely follow the requirements prescribed in state law. When state airport compatibility zoning laws are too narrowly focusedâfor example, on airspace obstructions aloneâit is difficult for an airport sponsor to justify expanding its local airport compatibility zoning regulations to address factors that are not specifically addressed by the state law. For local airport land use compatibility regulations to be more robust, state laws need to be comprehensive, not only addressing airspace protection, but also such factors as noise and safety, at least on an optional basis. â¢ State-level airport compatibility zoning standards that are rigidly set and enforced by a state aviation authority can overlook the unique circumstances and challenges facing an airport sponsor. For example, a strict application of state compatibility standards can be particularly detrimental to a GA airport owned and operated by an entity with no land use authority (i.e., airport authorities, state-owned, or privately owned airports). This circumstance can place the airport sponsor at a disadvantage when trying to negotiate the adoption of airport land use compatibility regulations by a local land use authority. If state standards are too stringent, a local agency may elect to not adopt airport compatibility regulations at all. Therefore, affording local agencies some flexibility in the application of state compatibility standards could help airport sponsors promote local adoption of core context-specific airport compatibility regulations. Overall, the research indicates that some level of involvement by state aviation authorities in local airport compatibility planning efforts is advantageous in influencing successful adoption and implementation of airport land use compatibility regulations. Regulation Type Local municipalities use three principal methods to regulate land uses around airports as presented below: airport zoning, comprehensive plans, and standalone airport land use compatibility plans. The method used by a municipality is directly influenced by the require- ments set by state laws. Airport Zoning The most common form of land use regulation is zoning. Most states have adopted laws (e.g., an Airport Zoning Act) that enable municipalities to adopt airport zoning regulations to prevent the creation of airspace hazards and other incompatible land uses. A zoning ordinance is a written regulation that defines how property in specific geographic zones (or zoning districts) can be used. Common zoning districts include residential, commer- cial, industrial, and agricultural. The zoning regulations identify the types of permitted land
Introduction 5 use, development intensities in terms of numbers of units or building area, and general purpose development standards (e.g., setbacks) that apply to each district. Zoning regulations seldom consider aviation concerns or address the specific issue of compatibility with aviation activities (i.e., noise and safety). While some municipalities adopt an âairport zoneâ that delineates specific permitted and prohibited uses and other limitations, the airport zone district often applies only to the airport property itself and perhaps the runway protection zones (RPZs) if they are off airport property. To address this issue, some municipalities adopt an airport combining or overlay zoning district to address airport-specific requirements. A combining district is used with the base zoning district to address special needs or characteristics of an area, such as within an airport hazard or influence area. The project research indicates that an airport overlay zone is the most common form of compatibility ordinance. As the name indicates, overlay zones apply on top of the underlying, base zoning districts and modify the conditions of the base zoning by adding criteria specifically addressing airport compatibility factors. Although airport zoning ordinances (AZOs) are a common and practical tool to regulate land use development around an airport, the research identified the following challenges: â¢ Although an AZO may be adopted, a map delineating the zone boundaries is often omitted from standard zoning maps. â¢ Confusion can arise when there are several zoning ordinances that address specific or nuanced airport issues. For example, a county government may have a distinct zoning ordinance for a particularly significant airport within the community (e.g., air carrier airport) and a different ordinance for smaller airports within the same community. â¢ Confusion also may arise when a jurisdiction provides multiple, separate ordinances to address aviation issues, such as one ordinance dealing with height limits within vicinity of an airport, another ordinance dealing with noise and safety, and yet another ordinance dealing with compatible on-airport development. â¢ Specific implementation procedures must be provided. Successful implementation and enforcement of an AZO can be further challenged if there is no specific procedure or knowledgeable official designated to ensure compliance. Comprehensive Plans A comprehensive plan articulates the goals and objectives of the community regarding land use, transportation, economic development, and other factors. The plan can also estab- lish goals to address the airport and surroundings, including specific policies pertaining to the communityâs vision or goals for airport development. These goals should include strate- gies to protect airport operations and maintain land use compatibility in the airport vicinity. Addressing airports and airport compatibility as part of a comprehensive plan offers many advantages: â¢ The airport and its importance to the communityâand thus the importance of maintaining land use compatibilityâare examined in the context of community-wide needs and goals. â¢ Inclusion in the comprehensive plan establishes the basis for ordinances to implement the planâs goals and reinforces the legal viability of ordinances. â¢ Periodic re-examination provides opportunities to address or update compatibility issues. However, certain disadvantages must also be recognized: â¢ Comprehensive plans address a broad range of topics, but they do not usually provide the details of individual topics such as airport land use compatibility. The details necessary to regulate future land uses need to be provided elsewhere.
6 Guidebook on Effective Land Use Compatibility Planning Strategies for General Aviation Airports â¢ Land use planners responsible for the preparation of a comprehensive plan may not be familiar with airport operations, the significance and areal extent of the Federal Aviation Regula- tions (FAR) Part 77 imaginary surfaces, or the planning implications associated with other compatibility factors. â¢ Comprehensive plans do not have regulatory power in and of themselves. Airport Land Use Compatibility Plans In California, the preparation and adoption of an airport land use compatibility plan is required for each public-use and military airport. The responsibility for these actions rests with the airport land use commission (ALUC) established in each county. While the requirements for preparing and adopting compatibility plans are unique to California, the concept behind these plans may be useful in other states. The key advantage of the land use compatibility plan is that all major aspects of airport land use compatibilityânot just noise, safety, airspace protection, and overflight criteria, but also the process to be used in reviewing proposed development for compliance with the criteriaâ are addressed in a single document. The chief disadvantage is that the plans are prepared by an agency that has no direct land use authority; the ALUC is responsible for preparing the compatibility plan, but each individual county and city must implement the compatibility plan through its own plans and zoning ordinances. Content of Regulations The AZOs reviewed during the research for this Guidebook focus on the protection of airport airspace from tall objects that can pose hazards to air navigation. This focus on air- space protection is usually dictated by state law or regulations. In most cases, the state laws and regulations and the local ordinances closely reflect the FAAâs model zoning ordinance guidance in Advisory Circular (AC) 150/5190-4A, A Model Zoning Ordinance to Limit Height of Objects Around Airports (see Appendix B, Resource Documents). Airspace protection is the critical compatibility concern for most airports, and airspace pro- tection regulations are often sufficient for achieving a high degree of land use compatibility. However, an AZO that addresses more than height limits may be crucial for airports located in areas experiencing land use development pressures or other challenges. A more comprehensive ordinance that addresses other aspects of airspace protection, such as noise, safety, and overflight annoyance, may be essential to promote an airportâs long-term viability. The airport managers interviewed during project research identified the following among the shortcomings of local airport compatibility measures: Many communities have not adopted an AZO. Interviewees expressed several reasons for this inaction: â¢ The community either has not experienced or is not aware of conflicts between the airport and nearby land uses. This appears to be particularly true for smaller or less active airports located in rural areas. â¢ The community and its elected officials might not understand the potential impacts of incompatible land use on airport operations or the importance of AZOs on the safety of airport users and the community at large. â¢ Monetary and other resources may not be available to support the preparation and adoption of an AZO. â¢ Local political attitudes may oppose any regulation, particularly those viewed as top-down regulations.
Introduction 7 â¢ Resources or interest may not be available at the state level to enforce adoption, even when it is required by statute. Often there are no penalties for failure to adopt a required ordinance. Implementation The protection of airports from incompatible development does not stop with adoption of an AZO or other regulationâthe measures must be implemented. Challenges to implementation include: â¢ Land use planning staff may not understand airport terminology, standards, and requirements (e.g., âPart 77â). â¢ Decision makers (elected officials) may not understand the value of the airport to community and thus ignore or give little priority to compatibility measures. â¢ Decision makers and their legal counsel may judge an FAA Aeronautical Study finding of âNo Hazardâ pursuant to Form 7460-1 to carry more weight than the airport managerâs concerns. â¢ Development pressures and economic development potential may negate or circumvent airport protection initiatives. â¢ No specific procedure is codified, and no specific individual is assigned the responsibility for AZO compliance review. â¢ Communication between land use review officials and airport management may be poor and prevent or complicate the review of development proposals. Outreach and Communication Many interviewees, both airport managers and local planners, emphasized that outreach and communication are essential to effective AZOs and other compatibility measures. They cited a variety of problems resulting from poor or nonexistent outreach and communication: â¢ Local decision makers made uninformed decisions to allow development that is detrimental to the airport. â¢ Local decision makers were unaware or unappreciative of the economic value of the airport to the community. â¢ The airport manager was not aware of a proposal for construction of a tall object near the airport until seeing it under construction. â¢ A new tall object necessitated displacement of a runway landing threshold, an increase in instrument landing procedure minimums, or other reductions to the airport functionality. â¢ New residential development beneath the traffic pattern resulted in frequent noise complaints. There were common themes among the various reasons for these challenges: â¢ The airport manager is not in the chain-of-review for land use development near the airport. â¢ The airport manager rarely attends public hearings or meetings during which decisions are made about land use development. â¢ The proposed development is in a different jurisdiction than the airport owner. â¢ Planners who review proposed development near the airport are only minimally aware of compatibility concerns and either ignore or forget about adopted compatibility measures. â¢ Planners and the airport manager do not know one another. â¢ Pilots groups and others in the local aviation community do not get involved in influencing local land use decisions. â¢ Non-pilots have no connection with or reason to visit the airport.