Projects to build residential units near airports are generally considered by the FAA to be an incompatible land use, frequently leading to complaints about aircraft noise from the new residents. That potential for conflict did not dissuade the township’s trustees from voting March 2 to approve the rezoning, which AOPA has repeatedly urged be defeated, as we stated in a January letter to the Batavia Township Zoning Commission.
The approval also came despite officials being informed that in 2018, more than 30,000 takeoffs or landings took place at Clermont County Airport, and the 24/7 operations at the busy southwest Ohio airport are expected to increase.
The Clermont County Airport is the base for an estimated 120 aircraft, and it also hosts flight training operations, the University of Cincinnati Aviation Technology program, Sporty’s Academy, and the Tri-State Warbird Museum.
Kyle Lewis, AOPA Great lakes regional manager, has attended meetings of the zoning commission and the Batavia Township Board of Trustees to raise awareness of aviation’s concerns. Sporty’s Academy President Eric Radtke and Eastern Cincinnati Aviation President Chuck Gallagher also made presentations at the meetings, outlining the airport’s day-to-day operations including briefing officials on how flight training is conducted.
A further complication for a residential project, AOPA has noted, is that the 73-acre tract targeted for rezoning and development would be located in the area where aircraft flying the traffic pattern to Runway 4 make their base-to-final turns, putting them at their lowest traffic-pattern altitudes. Some housing units would infringe the runway-protection area.
AOPA’s experience helping airports fend off incompatible land-use headaches amply indicates that such zoning decisions predictably set off cascading problems starting with noise complaints followed by officials pressuring airports to alter their operations, “which in turn negatively impacts economic well-being of the community,” the letter said.
In another letter emailed to the township’s trustees after the zoning officials had voted to recommend the zoning change from light industrial to a residential classification, Lewis pointed out that the county is obligated under the terms of federal airport grant awards to protect the airport from future hazards, and to “restrict the use of land adjacent to or in the immediate vicinity of the airport to activities and purposes compatible with normal airport operations.”
“AOPA asks that this Board of Trustees coordinates with the Clermont County Commissioners as to the future development of land adjacent to, and in the near vicinity of the Clermont County Airport,” he wrote. “These issues can become very technical and expertise from the FAA and [the Ohio department of Transportation] Office of Aviation should be sought before any decision is made.”
“The process now turns to the Clermont County Planning Commission, who will vote on construction permits,” Lewis said, adding that the planning panel is expected to wait for state and FAA evaluations of obstruction hazards to be completed before issuing permits.