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10:13 PM Sun, Nov. 18th

Prescott Council voices concerns on airpark

PRESCOTT - The Prescott City Council has joined the ranks of those who have concerns about plans for an airpark in east Chino Valley.

At their Tuesday meeting, council members heard a report on the plans from Ben Vardiman, interim manager of the Prescott Airport.

In response to Vardiman's concerns that the planned Perkins/Chino Valley Airpark could become a safety and competition issue for the region's main airport in Prescott, council members agreed to forward their concerns on to the governmental entities overseeing the plans.

In a late-July public meeting in Chino Valley, area residents learned about landowners' plans to rezone and develop more than 1,000 acres of the Perkins Ranch for an airpark, including a private/public-use airstrip along Perkinsville Road, east of Highway 89.

That meeting elicited a number of resident objections about potential noise and traffic.

This week, Prescott City Council members added some concerns of their own, maintaining that an airport so close to Prescott's long-time Ernest A. Love Field Airport in northeast Prescott could pose safety issues for aircraft flying into Prescott.

Councilman Robert Luzius, for instance, voiced "extreme concern" about the plan. Noting that the Perkins Airpark would be "eight and a half miles from the end of (Prescott's) runway," Luzius maintained that pilots could easily drift into Prescott's flight patterns.

In addition, city officials questioned the need for another airport in the area.

"I see this as a direct competition issue," Councilman Bob Roecker said.

City officials also brought up regional cooperation, and whether another airport so close to Prescott would be in the best interest of the region.

"We all use (the Prescott Airport) in our marketing," City Manager Steve Norwood said of the area communities. "All of us need to make sure (the Prescott Airport) is successful."

Wednesday morning, Chino Valley Mayor Karen Fann pointed out that the Perkins Airpark plans are still in the preliminary stages.

"This hasn't even come before our Planning and Zoning Commission yet," Fann said, adding that the rezoning request could go to the commission sometime in October.

She added: "Obviously, this is going to be a huge issue, and we're going to have a lot of questions about it" - on issues such as traffic, the Federal Aviation Administration's stand, and noise levels.

As far as regional cooperation goes, Fann said the airpark plans might open up more discussion about how Chino Valley, Prescott Valley and Dewey-Humboldt could become more involved in Prescott's airport - "where we can share in with the jobs and revenues."

While she allowed that the Prescott Airport benefits the region as the only commercial airport, Fann emphasized that the City of Prescott owns the airport and derives much of the financial and job benefits.

In order for the Perkins Airpark to move forward, it would require a zoning change by the Town of Chino Valley from the current residential designation to industrial.

At the July meeting, a spokeswoman from the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm, which is representing Perkins Ranch, Inc., said the application also includes a request for a conditional use permit for development of a private airport with public access, called the Michael A. Perkins Airpark.

Norwood said he plans to watch the project's plans as they move through the review process. At the appropriate time, he said he would send a letter that lists Prescott's concerns to the involved entities - possibly including the Town of Chino Valley, the FAA, and the Arizona Department of Transportation.

A representative from the Gallagher & Kennedy firm was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.