Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pegasus Airpark (5AZ3), Queen Creek, Arizona: Council to rule on allowing light jets at airpark

The Queen Creek Town Council is scheduled to rule Wednesday whether to allow very light jets at the Pegasus Airpark, a gated residential aviation community east of Ellsworth Road and north of Empire Road.

The proposed amendment to the park’s conditional-use permit has generated a flood of e-mails to council members from residents both for and against removing a prohibition against the jets that has been in place since the development’s approval in 1994. In October 2008, the council denied a request to allow very light jets — the classification given to those single-pilot aircraft weighing less than 10,000 pounds that can land on shorter runways than larger corporate or private jets –and helicopters at Pegasus Airpark.

The Pegasus Airpark Flight Association, responsible for the airport’s operation, has requested the change with the support of the Pegasus Airpark Homeowners Association.

“With the new modern aircraft (very light jets) the noise level generated is less than many piston-powered prop airplanes,” said association President Jack McCormick in a letter to the town. “This improvement in noise reduction has come in recent years with the modernization of the fan-jet engine and the introduction of newly designed jet aircraft. Having a percentage of the total allowed aircraft based at Pegasus with a lower noise signature will undoubtedly reduce the overall noise level.”

Several park residents have stated in e-mails obtained by The Arizona Republic that they support the addition of very light jets, in part, because the move will increase property values.

“I am a private pilot and recently moved to Pegasus after completing the construction of our dream home,” wrote Craig Hittie to the town. “I believe the ability to operate small jets out of Pegasus will increase the property values of all properties within the subdivision (whether developed, or not), resulting in additional tax receipts for the town.”

The park contains 180 lots but only 30 to 40 have occupied homes, according to town Planning Administrator Wayne Balmer. The community contains 1-acre lots, several of which have access to a taxiway and to the private runway. Some homes also have hangars.

“We’ve lost some home sales to several people who own very light jets — they’ve moved (into) other places in the Valley,” McCormick said.

He said several property owners bought lots five to eight years ago when the economy was strong but have been unable to build homes. Residents hope landing very light jets, which cost $2 million to $3 million, will attract high-end buyers who will build pricey homes.

But the community’s request has met with opposition from some residents in neighboring communities and under the airpark’s flight path. They contend in e-mails that they want Queen Creek to remain the quiet, rural area it was when they moved there.

“Please reconsider allowing light jet aircraft to fly in and out of Pegasus Airpark,” wrote Ed, Kristen and Reece Guerra. “We’ve worked hard to maintain a family environment and coexist with a well-established equestrian community. Low flying aircraft add another risk to equestrian riders. … Let’s not industrialize the heart of our community with more air traffic.”

Maureen MacDonald wrote to the council: “I do not wish to now have planes fueled with jet fuel flying over our home. It is not the safe environment I bought into when I researched moving to the beautiful town of Queen Creek.”

Valerie Reed and Thomas Lang wrote, “Please do not allow jet traffic to invade our space. I realize that some of you may feel that this ‘improvement’ will help our property values and would decrease the noise in our area. … Jets flying low over a residential area does not make an area more desirable, it has just the opposite effect.”

Balmer said the town has done its due diligence, going so far as to hire an independent consulting firm to verify a noise study on the use of very light jets.

“We concur that jet powered aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds would generate less noise than some of the aircraft currently operating at Pegasus Airpark,” wrote James M. Harris, president of Coffman Associates, airport consultants, in a letter to the town.

The flight association invited residents within a half mile of the subdivision to a meeting to hear the different noise levels produced by very light jets compared with piston-powered aircraft, Balmer said.

“After the presentation and demonstration at the airpark on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, I am writing in support of the amendment,” said Joann Cardinal, a Pegasus resident, in an e-mail to the town. “I feel that taking into account all of the considerations of noise and safety, light jets are as quiet, or quieter and as safe, or more safe then planes that are currently allowed.

“I believe by allowing jets, we open the properties to more potential homebuyers, and thus increase the likelihood of homes being constructed, sold and becoming owner occupied and thereby contributing to the acceleration of the economic recovery in Queen Creek,” she said.

Joyce Coury wrote: “Stellar Airpark in Chandler has become desirable, due to the fact that owners may fly their light jets there.”

On March 14, the Queen Creek Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend the council remove the prohibition against very light jets and allow construction of an above-ground Jet-A fuel storage tank. Approval was conditioned on a noise study every five years.

Council member Jeff Brown responded to a resident in an e-mail stating, “I was at a demonstration of these (very light jet) craft in 2008 at Pegasus Airpark. That demonstration clearly showed to me that the VLJ’s are quieter than the traditional piston planes we see out there currently. … The benefit to the town will be greater property values and increased tax base.”

http://tucsoncitizen.com

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