Poet Robert Frost claimed fences make the best neighbors. Short of chain link or split rail, the Salt Lake International Airport thinks West Valley's proposed agreement will perform the same function.
Call it whine prevention.The airport, the 800-pound gorilla of Salt Lake Valley's west side, wants to make sure that residents and developers who move in next door know what they are getting into.
Ditto West Valley officials, who say they receive occasional complaints from current residents about airport noise. The council is scheduled on Thursday to talk about adopting the requirement for new development as part of a proposed airport overlay zone.
It's understandable that officials might want to carve "Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware" into the foreheads of all potential buyers of airport area property. The airport is kind of a big neighbor - jumbo jets are rather difficult to hide - so new property owners might have a hard time finding a sympathetic ear when they complain after land deeds have been signed.
Short of using a branding iron to engrave foreheads, officials think their best form of whine prevention in this case is a simple paper signed during purchase negotiations. The agreement, which could be likened to requiring a parental scrawl on Junior's report card, wouldn't allow building permit approval until a potential homeowner has signed on the dotted line.
To its credit, the airport is working at being friendly. The Airport Authority recently shelled out $5 million to purchase 57 homes and about 140 acres - that's all land they don't plan to use for expansion - just to back up the neighborly claim, said Airport Director Lou Miller.
Since 1980, under the threat of federal mandates, the airport has worked to relieve neighbors' ears by conducting noise level studies, juggling runway use and routing as many flights as possible north over the Great Salt Lake as well as purchasing the property rendered useless by noise impacts.
West Valley's proposed agreement for new development would be kept on file with the airport's owner, Salt Lake City Corp. The capital city already has such a requirement on new development within its own city limits, an agreement that sparked a lawsuit by a property owner of industrially zoned land near the airport that was later settled out of court.
"This is to notify a prospective buyer that there are impacts associated with the airport in this area," said John Janson, a long-range planning supervisor for West Valley City.
Janson said the airport overlay zone is needed primarily to protect potential buyers, who might not know everything about their new neighborhood. "Generally they look at the school. They look at the age and condition of the neighborhood, they look at proximity to their work. But they usually don't consider these other environmental questions, such as how close are they to a sewer plant or how close are they to a garbage dump."
The two parcels of land targeted for the proposed airport overlay zone lie roughly east of I-215 to 56th West and north of 31st South to 21st South; and east of I-215 to 36th West and south of 31st South to city limits.