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"Airport Land Use: Houses near Williams airport facing fight"


 
Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Houses near Williams airport facing fight  
By Jason Massad
The East Valley (AZ) Tribune 


Opponents of a major development that calls for up to 3,000 homes near
Williams Gateway Airport are maneuvering to derail a plan that the Mesa City
Council could approve as early as next week. 
 
Officials from Boeing and the Mesa Chamber of Commerce met recently to
reaffirm their objection to the Pacific Proving LLC project, which could
create 27,000 jobs in the quickly developing east Mesa area. 

Opponents fear the project could hamper airport expansion and impede
Boeing's operations by bringing in homes too close to the airport's flight
path. In booming areas like California, complaints of noise have choked off
other facilities. 

"We still stand behind our original objection to it," said Charles Deaton,
president of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. "This could send a message to any
industry that the city is going to stand behind their protections." 

Local opponents to the project got state lawmakers involved in the fight
this week. Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, called a meeting with East
Valley legislators Tuesday to discuss the project. Verschoor did not return
calls Tuesday. Meanwhile, Reps. Rich Crandall and Kirk Adams, both R-Mesa,
and Sen. Chuck Gray, R-Mesa, are scheduled to meet with Mesa Mayor Keno
Hawker this week after hearing objections at a meeting with other chambers
that Boeing representatives attended. 

Crandall, set to take office this January, said he needed to get more
information before taking a stance on the project. 

"We've only heard one side of the story," he said. "For the (City Council)
to be supporting it, there has to be a heck of a lot more to it." 

The 1,700-acre project proposed by Pacific Proving LLC would be located on
the southern half of the General Motors Proving Grounds east of Williams
Gateway and is envisioned as a mix of high-rise office buildings, business
parks, light industrial and suburban residences. 

An earlier version of the project, headed by William S. Levine, was shot
down in October by a city planning board because of its potential impact on
the airport. 

Earlier this month, however, Mesa City Council members expressed support for
a revised plan that would build all of the 3,000 planned residences on the
northern portion of the property, across a future freeway. 

Boeing, which does flight tests of Apache helicopters from the airport and
is one of Mesa's largest employers, said the project would set a bad
precedent. 

"We have a problem with the increase in houses and the location of the
houses. That's directly in our flight path," said Mary Baldwin, manager of
community and government relations. 

Paul Gilbert, a zoning attorney for the project, said the city would receive
several benefits from it. A "no build" zone next to the airport would be
ceded to the city by Pacific Proving and an easement would be preserved for
a section of freeway that would run through it. 

Boeing officials say that the company compromised on the number of homes
that would be built in the area when the city passed a new general plan in
2002. The Pacific Proving LLC project would require a "major amendment" to
the plan to accommodate the number of residences included in the project.
Gilbert questioned Boeing's input on the possible change. 

"That's interesting that they agree to a compromise that applies to other
people's land," he said. "I don't follow that logic."

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