May 22, 2018

FAA Proposal Restricts Building Height Near Airports

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FAA Proposal Restricts Building Height Near Airports

The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to drastically reduce the permitted height for thousands of buildings near airports across the country. Real estate developers say the move could hurt property values.

FAA says the proposal is driven by encroaching development that it says limits safe flight paths for planes. FAA argues that as more buildings, cell phone towers, wind turbines, and other tall structures are constructed near airports, there are fewer safe flight paths available.

Learn about another FAA regulation affecting the real estate industry from last week's news.

In particular, FAA is calling for building height requirements near airports that take into account the clearance planes would need in the event a plane lost an engine during take-off. (Planes can still fly with only one engine. However, they have less power, and cannot climb as quickly as with both engines.) Current FAA regulations limit building height based on the clearance planes need when they have two operating engines.

However, property near airports is increasingly popular for development. Real estate developers and local governments are worried that the FAA proposal could put a hold on proposed office towers and condo complexes until developers and zoning boards figure out what the FAA’s proposal means for such communities.

The FAA's proposal would impact new building structures or any proposals to modify existing structures near some 388 airports. Under the FAA’s proposal, future buildings constructed 10,000 feet from the end of an airport’s runway and within a designated flight path would be restricted to a maximum height of 160 feet. The current limit is 250 feet. Existing buildings along the path would not have to be altered.

The building height allowances increase as the distance increases from the airport. The FAA proposal could potentially affect buildings up to 10 miles away from the airport, according to an analysis by the Weitzman Group, a New York real estate consulting firm.

"Just one flight path could cover hundreds and hundreds of acres in densely developed areas," wrote Peter Bazeli in the Weitzman analysis. "You are going to be bumping up against some very valuable property rights."

John Speckin, the FAA deputy regional administrator in charge of the proposal, said last week during an online briefing that the FAA is recommending airports and local zoning boards work together to select a single flight path for each runway that planes can use in the event that an engine quits. He said that would help limit the number of buildings and other structures that would be affected. 

"We're trying to create a balance of the aviation needs and the development needs in the local community,” Speckin says.

Source: “FAA, Real Estate Developers Clash Over Plan to Lower Building Heights Near Airports,” The Associated Press (June 26, 2014)