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National News

June 27, 2014

FAA, developers clash over tall buildings

WASHINGTON — The government wants to dramatically reduce the allowable height of potentially thousands buildings near airports around the country — a proposal that is drawing fire from real estate developers, local officials and members of Congress who say it will hurt property values.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposal, supported by airports and airlines, is driven by encroaching development that limits safe flight paths for planes that might lose power in an engine during takeoff. Planes can fly with only one engine, but they have less power to climb quickly over obstacles.

Local business leaders, who see airports as a means to attract development, say they fear office towers and condominium complexes will have to be put on hold until developers and zoning boards can figure out what the agency’s proposal means for their communities. In Tempe, Arizona, for example, local Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Miller said she fears almost any new building in the city’s downtown would face new restrictions because the community is located near the edge of Phoenix Sky Harbor’s runways.

“Coming out of a very long recession, we hate the idea of stopping some growth,” she said.

In Florida, the Miami City Commission passed a resolution two weeks ago that said the proposal “may be detrimental to the overall growth and economic prosperity” of the city’s downtown and urged the FAA to conduct a study of its potential economic impact before moving forward.

Airlines have to plan for the possibility that a plane could lose the use of an engine during takeoff even though that doesn’t happen very often. As more buildings, cellphone towers, wind turbines and other tall structures go up near airports, there are fewer safe flight paths available. Current regulations effectively limit building heights based on the amount of clearance needed by planes with two operating engines.

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