Scottsdale may remove airport commissioner

by Edward Gately – Oct. 31, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The Scottsdale City Council will consider removing a city advisory-panel member from his position because he lodged a complaint with federal officials over the council’s vote to allow an apartment complex near Scottsdale Airport.

The council last week agreed to consider removing John Washington from the Scottsdale Airport Advisory Commission when it convenes for its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday.

The move comes after Mayor Jim Lane called for Washington to step down because he filed his objection with the Federal Aviation Administration, which responded by raising concerns about the apartment plans.

The airport commission recommended the council deny three separate proposals for apartment complexes near the airport because they would lead to problems with residents complaining about aircraft noise.

Washington received a response from an FAA official saying the “airport will become the victim of complaining residents who do not like aircraft noise and emissions whether from fixed wing aircraft or helicopters.”

During a special meeting last Thursday held to appoint a new presiding city judge, the council also voted 5-2 to consider Washington’s removal at the Tuesday meeting.

Lane, Vice Mayor Linda Milhaven and council members Suzanne Klapp, Ron McCullagh and Dennis Robbins voted to place the matter on the agenda, while Councilwoman Lisa Borowsky and Councilman Bob Littlefield voted no.

“Washington was right to complain about it,” Littlefield said. “The idea that commissioners should be afraid for their commission post if they disagree with the council majority, that sounds like the Soviet Union.”

In an Oct. 20 letter, Lane asked Washington for his resignation from the commission, saying his complaint had “given rise to a serious concern as to your motivation with respect to the city and the airport.”

Washington refused to resign.

“It’s pretty clear from the vote . . . that I probably will not survive on the commission,” Washington said. He added that if removed, “I respect their right to do that.”

On Oct. 18, the council voted 6-1 to approve a non-major General Plan amendment, rezoning and amended development standards for the Residences at Zocallo Place. It calls for a four-building, 240-unit apartment complex near the northwestern corner of Greenway Hayden Loop and 73rd Street.

The site is about 3,600 feet northwest of the airport runway and could attract an estimated 543 residents.

Following the decision, Washington sent his complaint to Anthony Garcia, compliance specialist with the FAA’s Airports Division for the Western-Pacific Region. He received a response Thursday.

Garcia wasn’t available for comment, but Ian Gregor, FAA spokesman for the Western region, confirmed that he received a copy of Garcia’s response to Washington.

Garcia said the “affected project area will change from one that is compatible with the airport to become one that is less compatible with the airport.”

In a follow-up e-mail, Garcia told Washington his correspondence is not an official FAA decision.

Lane said his desire to have Washington removed from the Airport Advisory Commission wasn’t dependent on the FAA’s response to his complaint.

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