Stafford Regional Airport Looks At Boundary Plan

May 01--A proposed project off Centreport Parkway has become a catalyst for Stafford Regional Airport officials to craft recommendations on what kind of development should sprout up along the airport's boundary.

The Stafford Regional Airport Authority expects to submit these recommendations to the county before the Planning Commission votes on Oakenwold, the proposed development calling for 650 residential units near the airport.

The president of a Woodbridge-based engineering firm, John "Skip" Groupe IV, and his son, John "Johnny" Groupe V, have applied to rezone a 232-acre site off the parkway from agricultural to planned-traditional neighborhood development. Oakenwold would be near a site that Legoland is considering for a theme park.

The Planning Commission delayed a vote on Oakenwold April 23 in order to consider changes the Groupes submitted a day before. Among other things, the applicants scaled back the number of proposed residential units from 695 to 650. They also provided more of a commercial buffer between Centreport Parkway and the development, prohibiting residences within 300 feet of the parkway.

At the April 23 public hearing, airport officials repeated their opposition. They previously expressed concerns that if Oakenwold is approved and built, complaints from future residents could hamper the airport's growth.

A vote may be months down the road, but the project's potential has prompted the airport authority to present a land-use plan.

A subcommittee of the authority met Wednesday to take a first look at a draft of the plan. The plan is expected to go before the authority in mid-May and then to a Planning Commission committee.

Most committee officials agreed that a local government would not locate an airport next to an existing residential development, so it was not logical to do the opposite.

That is especially true, they said, when the airport needs to be protected as an economic engine.

A 2010 study prepared for the Virginia Department of Aviation said that Stafford Regional Airport has created 107 jobs, $4.44 million in payroll and $18.41 million in economic activity.

Clark Leming, a lawyer representing the Groupes, called an economic representative before the planning commission who said that residential development near the airport would bring in more money than industrial development.

The airport's preliminary report cites recommendations from a 1998 Federal Aviation Administration planning task force that discourages residential development next to an airport. It also cites several policies within Stafford's comprehensive plan that say that the county should support development of the airport.

The committee officials mainly swapped ideas over where to draw the boundary line for the area impacted by the airport. The county's current comprehensive plan has an airport impact zone, but committee officials said that it was drawn up based on guidelines for vertical obstructions, and doesn't take into account noise and vibrations.

Leming also called a witness who conducted a noise study before commission members at the April 23 public hearing. That witness said that the airport's average noise level calculated over a 24-hour period would not be enough to bother residents.

The engineers with the airport questioned how the study was measured.

"An acceptable noise at 3 p.m. is much different than one at 3 a.m.," said Jeff Tarkington, one of the engineers from Talbert & Bright, a firm retained by the authority.

Kirkland added that multiple studies have said that noise is subjective. Wallis said that the airport has already received complaints three quarters of a mile from the runway.

The noise concern got bigger once committee members considered the inevitable future growth of the airport.

"You guys are about to boom," Tarkington said.

According to the preliminary plan, the airport accommodates up to 100 based aircraft and 75,000 flights annually.

Vanessa Remmers: 540/735-1975

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