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“Compatible Land-Use Planning for Areas Adjacent to Airports”

by Mark R. Johnson, AICP (The American Planning Association Divisions Council, February 2011)

A case study of Indianopolis, Indiana

As community planners know too well, once an area is committed to any given form of development, it can be nearly impossible to reverse the trend. Airports present serious challenges for their host communities when it comes to land-use planning. they require large tracts of land; they produce varied impacts beyond their boundaries; and they serve a dynamic and growing industry that often seems to be in constant transition. furthermore, airports are important, if not vital, to local and regional economies.

thus, local governments are faced with a demanding balancing act: to minimize the risk that future populations will be exposed to substantial airport-related impacts; to protect the long-term viability of the airport by ensuring that encroaching development does not choke the airport’s long-term development needs; and to ensure that urban development permitted in the airport environs provides fair opportunities to property owners while producing lasting value to the community.

An especially difficult aspect of the airport/community planning interface relates to future airport facility requirements. new facilities can have profound effects on the surrounding environs. construction of a new runway or the relocation of an airport passenger terminal, for example, can require substantial land acquisition, the rerouting of major highways and arterial streets, and the introduction of aircraft noise to new parts of the community. the inability to develop needed facilities can seriously compromise the ability of the airport to accommodate air-travel demand. in extreme cases, the choking off of airport development potential can lead to the abandonment and relocation of the airport—a project of daunting expense with potentially severe adverse impacts of its own.

if a local government is to establish a land-use planning and regulatory framework that promotes the orderly, long-term development of the airport, the airport must have a long-term master plan that defines the broad outlines of the ultimate airport development. indeed, experience indicates that strong and visionary airport leadership is crucial to a successful airport land-use-compatibility planning program.

When the future of the airport is sufficiently well defined and broad in scope, local governments have the guidance they need to establish compatible land-use plans and regulations. that long-term vision also enables the airport and the local government to coordinate on future property acquisition and long-term infrastructure needs. Without a sufficiently comprehensive vision of long-term airport development, local land-use policies and regulations may be enacted that allow incompatible development in key areas, potentially foreclosing what could otherwise have been attractive long-term airport development options.

Compatible Land-Use Planning for Areas Adjacent to Airports
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