Arlington OKs $83 million plan to expand airport

Oct. 24--ARLINGTON -- The City Council unanimously approved an $83 million plan Tuesday that could significantly increase traffic and development opportunities at and around the Arlington Municipal Airport over the next 20 years.

The master plan calls for expanding the 6,000-foot runway by 700 feet to accommodate more types of planes and to build a new, larger terminal with more plane parking spaces. The plan also calls for opening up the west side of the property for development by adding a second taxiway and expanding Center Street south of Interstate 20. There now is no access to that side of the property.

The airport, which logs about 150,000 take-offs and landings a year, generates about $93 million for the local economy annually, city officials say. The planned improvements would keep the airport competitive and also help meet growing regional air traffic demands, officials said. The city estimates it could attract up to 200,000 flights a year and increase the number of planes based at the airport from 300 to 410.

"If you don't offer facilities pilots expect, you run the risk of falling to a competitive disadvantage," said Trey Yelverton, deputy city manager over economic development. "We're really only reaping economic benefits of half the airport. You open up the west side, you have the potential to multiply the economic impact."

The master plan still needs approval from the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, which could take up to a year. At least $61 million of the 20-year plan is eligible for state and federal funding and the city's portion of the project, about 26 percent, could be paid for by bonds and gas well revenue, Airport Manager Robert Porter said.

Porter said that the airport cannot keep up with demand and that he has a waiting list of about 75 people seeking hangar space. The plan calls for rebuilding a burned hangar with 20 units in the next five years. Porter said at least two corporations have contacted the airport about building their own facilities.

Councilman Robert Rivera, whose southeast Arlington district includes the airport, raised concerns that the expansion would negatively affect surrounding neighborhoods.

The plan had no environmental impact and would not significantly contribute to noise around the airport, master plan consultant Mike Dmyterko told the council. Dmyterko said larger jets are often quieter than the smaller planes now using the airport.

Online: www.arlingtontx.gov/aviation

In other business

Gas wells: The council voted 6-2 to approve the second reading of gas well ordinance revisions that would double the minimum distance between gas wells and protected structures, which include homes, churches and schools. The amendment would allow a drilling company to drill within 300 feet of such sites if it gets approval from at least 60 percent of property owners who live 600 to 300 feet from the proposed site. The company could also get an exception if it proves it made a good faith effort to get 60 percent of the property owners approval and at least seven City Council members vote to approve the reduced setback. Councilwomen Sheri Capehart and Lana Wolff voted against the changes, and Mayor Robert Cluck was absent.

Gas wells, part II: The council unanimously approved an amendment that no longer requires property owners to request a zoning change for well sites. Drilling was allowed in industrial zoning only. Under the new rules, drilling is allowed in all types of zoning as long as the full council approves a specific-use permit.

Tierra Verde: The City Council unanimously approved the first commercial rezoning case in the new Tierra Verde overlay district near U.S. 287 in southwest Arlington. Part of the 9-acre tract will be rezoned from agriculture to business for uses that include offices, warehouses and minor auto repairs. A specific use permit for gas well drilling was also approved. Several residents spoke in opposition to the rezoning request, voicing concerns that the land would be used for salvage yards. Capehart asked the applicant to not allow major automotive repairs and said the city would keep salvage yards from opening there. The city adopted strict zoning and building design guidelines in the largely undeveloped area around the upscale Tierra Verde Golf Course to encourage high-end residential and commercial development.

Storm-water fees: The council directed staff to create a storm-water mitigation program that could provide businesses a credit on their utility bill if they implement measures to reduce or improve the quality of runoff from their property. Such measures include adding storm-water retention ponds or porous pavers in their parking lots that allow rain to be absorbed into the ground. The city raised the storm-water fee for residential and commercial properties this year to generate more money for public infrastructure projects designed to reduce flooding.

Council candidates: Attorney Robert Shepard, former chairman of the Arlington Planning and Zoning Commission, announced Tuesday that he will run for the at-large City Council seat that Steve McCollum will leave next spring. Candidate filing has not officially begun for the May election, but the Star-Telegram has reported that Arlington schools Trustee Michael Glaspie, a minister, is interested, as are civic activist Connie Ruff and developer/banker Bart Thompson.

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Susan Schrock, 817-548-5475

sschrock@star-telegram.com

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