A proposal to build 48 apartments near the Rock Hill/York County Airport has renewed questions about people living too close to air traffic.
Local officials sought in 2008 to bar the land from development because of its proximity to the airport, where more corporate jets are expected in coming years. But plans were changed after opposition from surrounding neighborhoods.
Now, a developer intends to put up the Rock Pointe Apartments, a trio of buildings along Ebenezer Road near the Celanese Road intersection. The land sits off the southern end of the runway.
"Here we are, roughly 1,110 feet from the flight path, they're going to put 150 or more residents in three very large buildings," said Scott Ball, a resident of nearby Stafford Park. "It's in an area where they swore up and down they were never going to let this happen."
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Two years ago, Ball led neighbors in a fight against a so-called airport overlay district, a set of tighter zoning rules affecting land and homes near the runway.
City and county officials approved the district but agreed to reduce its scope in response to opposition from neighbors. The apartments site falls just outside the revised boundary line.
The apartments would be income-restricted, meaning tenants must make below certain income levels. Construction could start by December or January, said developer Brad Queener of Bradley Development in Aynor.
Queener said his firm conducted a noise study in February and found no problems.
"It met all the guidelines it was required to meet," said Queener. "You can 'What if?' everything to death. You can build somewhere and they can put in an interstate.
"You've kind of got to build for the set of factors known to you right now."
City planning commissioners will review the proposal when they meet Tuesday night, but only a technical approval is needed because the site already has proper zoning.
"There's not a whole lot that probably can be done," said City Councilman John Black, who represents the area. "The best-case scenario is to minimize the impact this would have," through fences and green space.
More jet traffic wanted
Neighbors argue the apartments don't make sense close to an airport scheduled for growth. Local officials are pursuing a 1,000-foot runway addition in hopes of attracting more corporate jet traffic.
The airport already averages about 44,000 total takeoffs and landings per year, according to city figures.
"We're building around an airport that may expand," said Dean Archer, a Stafford Park resident. "They said they had made mistakes in the past. Here we are going down that same road."
A citizens board that oversees the airport will not weigh in, said John Roberts, chairman of the seven-member advisory panel.
"Given that it's outside of the AOD, I'm sure we really don't have any concern about it," Roberts said, referring to an Airport Overlay District. "Those lines were carefully drawn.
"The airport just has no interest whatsoever in projects outside of the AOD."
Asked whether the rules he fought could have prevented the apartment complex, Ball said his group advocated for other solutions all along.
"The group was called NO AOD - we were for the removal of the AOD and stressed ... that all of this could be handled through individual zoning issues," he said.
The apartments are a form of affordable housing in which developers qualify for state tax credits in exchange for making the units available to qualified tenants.
Similar projects have sparked opposition. In June, a developer scuttled plans for senior apartments after an outcry from six nearby neighborhoods. The project was proposed on Herlong Avenue across from Millwood Plantation.