Originally Published: July 25, 2007 9:55 p.m.
CHINO VALLEY - Whether it was concerns over noise pollution, traffic congestion or safety, most residents who attended Wednesday afternoon's neighborhood meeting seemed leery of a landowner's desire to build an airpark in a remote area off Perkinsville Road.
Within the past several months, longtime Chino Valley landowner Tom Perkins Sr. put in a request with the town's Development Services Department to rezone and develop 1,100 acres of his 8,300-acre ranch for an airpark in a vacant field eight miles up Perkinsville Road, east of Highway 89.
Shelly McTee, an attorney with the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm which represents Perkins Ranch, Inc., said Wednesday front of a packed house at the Senior Center that Perkins wants to change the zoning of his property from residential to industrial so he can build the park.
Perkins also has applied for a conditional use permit in hopes of building a private airport with public access, dubbed Michael A. Perkins Airpark.
McTee said in addition to an airstrip, designs for the airpark include provisions for professional business offices and lodging.
The airpark's design team from Tornow Associates estimate the project would take 20 years to complete in three separate stages. Work on the project would begin in 2008.
Over that 20-year period, McTee said, Chino Valley could gain as many as 5,000 jobs and tens of millions of dollars in gross economic benefits.
During the first two phases, the developer would build a 4,500-foot runway that small-engine planes could use only during the daytime.
However, in Phase III of the project, which is set for approximately 11 years from now, the runway eventually could be lit and extended to 7,500 feet with taxiways and enclosed hangars.
In the beginning, the airpark would accommodate single-engine, two- to six-passenger planes that weigh 1,200 pounds or less and provide for touch-and-go landings.
Although it's about one mile away from the end of the proposed airpark's runway, the noise from the complex would affect the Garchen Buddhist Institute, a religious temple and retreat in a remote area off Perkinsville Road.
Trisha Lamb, president of the 8-year-old institute, opposes the project.
"We're known worldwide and locally for our exquisite tranquility and peace," Lamb said. "And, of course, an airport would affect that profoundly. The flight path for landings would be right over the ridge where our facility is located."
Don Polacek, who lives in the Haystack Ranches subdivision one mile away from the proposed airstrip, said he does not like the project because of the noise.
"The property values (going down) isn't what worries me," Polacek said. "What worries me is we came to this community because it's a quiet, beautiful area. It's all zoned residential."
Greg Young, who resides off Keith Trail east of the Bright Star subdivision off East Road 2 North, said traffic congestion and safety are major concerns with a project like this.
"The orientation of the proposed airport is going to put the takeoffs and landings into the wind, which will bring it right over the communities that we're in and the Bright Star area," Young said. "But there's also an issue of whether the town will honor the commitment under which the property was originally brought in."
In 2001, the Town of Chino Valley annexed this portion of Perkins' land. Both the town and Perkins signed a development agreement recognizing that future development would occur there.
But not until this year did Perkins file a request for the rezone and the permit for an airpark, which would amend the development agreement.
In the coming weeks, it's likely Perkins will schedule a public hearing in front of the town's Planning and Zoning Commission so that commissioners can listen to his proposal. The Town Council would eventually have the ultimate say in the fate of the airstrip.
Gallagher & Kennedy attorney David Ward said he does not know of any other planned neighborhood meetings on this subject, but his firm will report the comments from Wednesday's gathering to the P&Z Commission and Perkins.
Chino Valley Development Services Director Jerry Stricklin said his department soon will discuss the neighbors' concerns with Perkins and look at them in context of the town's goals.