Airport Commission Delays, But Doesn’t Kill, Condos
By Mark Mueller - 12/11/2006
Orange County Business Journal Staff
An unexpected airport issue temporarily grounded plans for five high-rise condominium projects in Costa Mesa last month.
While not a deal killer, the issue stands to slow down development for at least a few months.
Costa Mesa’s City Council was prepared to grant final approvals for the first of the five condo projects proposed for the area around South Coast Plaza.
Instead, the council found itself battling an airport agency over a last-minute rejection of the plans for the towers.
The week before the city hearing, John Wayne Airport’s Land Use Commission surprised the city and some developers by voting that the high-rise plans are “inconsistent” with the area near the airport.
The commission was vague in its reasoning, citing its discretion in protecting airport traffic patterns. Its decision contradicts previous findings it made in 2001 for the South Coast Plaza area, City Manager Allan Roeder said.
The seven-member commission reviews land use proposals near the airport and those that could have a potential impact on airport operations.
Proponents of the towers thought they had resolved any height or airport safety issues several months ago when the Federal Aviation Commission signed off on the project.
The FAA has caused delays for other local high-rise projects, most notably Maguire Properties Inc.’s 19-story tower at its Park Place campus in Irvine.
Several of the Costa Mesa towers will run as high as 315 feet, or about 25 stories. In all, about 1,500 homes in nine towers are in the works for the area between South Coast Plaza and the new Henry and Renée Segerstrom Concert Hall.
The Irvine office of Chicago’s Fifield Cos. was expected to have the first approval. It plans two 25-story towers with 250 homes at the current site of the Lakes Pavilions shopping center.
Costa Mesa’s City Council is contesting the airport commission’s decision, with a January vote on the matter expected. The council can overturn the decision with a four-fifths vote, after a 45-day review period. Until then, any development approvals are on hold.
“The bottom line is, it is just a recommending agency,” said Kimberly Brandt, principal planner for the city. “The city can override the decision. But it is causing a delay.”
Fifield’s towers now are expected to break ground in the summer, factoring in the latest delay, said Tim O’Brien, senior vice president for the developer.
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