A proposed housing development near the Henderson Executive Airport is meeting stiff opposition from area businesses, homeowners, pilots and city planning commissioners.
The developers are hoping the City Council will feel differently.
Sage Mountain Ranch is a proposed mixed-use development for 268 acres on the southwest corner of St. Rose Parkway and Executive Airport Drive. While the proposal includes retail and other commercial use, it is the request to build single-family homes and other residences on a majority of the land that is causing the most controversy.
The proposal was denied by the Planning Commission by a 6-0 vote, agreeing it was a great project in the wrong place. One commissioner abstained, citing a conflict of interest. Sage Mountain was scheduled to go before the City Council on March 4 for zoning changes, but the developers were granted a continuance until April 1 to continue to work with the city on concerns.
“There’s some concerns that we understand exist,” said John Stewart, principal for developer Juliet Company, who presented the Sage Mountain proposal to the Planning Commission on Feb. 13. “We are open to that type of discussion if this does not represent the best proposal for this troubled property.”
Sage Mountain is asking to develop 1,540 single- and multi-family residences on 204 acres, 137 acres of which would be houses. The remainder of the development would be 44 acres of commercial and an 11-acre public park at the center.
Sage Mountain is a development involving Lennar Homes, financial firm Rialto Capital and Soro, a Nevada limited liability company. Juliet has ownership interest in some of the land.
Residential use approved for that land is not without recent precedent. The City Council overrode similar neighbor and city Planning Commission wishes in 2006 in approving the $2 billion, 126-acre City Crossing project, which included plans for 2,500 luxury residential units and two boutique hotels. No houses were part of the master plan.
City Crossing broke ground November 2007 but filed for bankruptcy the following year.
Stewart said Thursday that the Sage Mountain plan of 1,539 residences is significantly lower density than what City Crossing had planned, making it more compatible with the neighborhood.
COMPLAINTS ARE FLYING
Concerns against the project are coming on three fronts. First is from pilots who say that west of the airport, where Sage Mountain would be built, is the only safe path for planes in and out of the airport because that area doesn’t have housing.
Randy Coursolle, a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and a corporate pilot flying out of the airport, said it’s a bad idea to put housing close to an airport that is supposed to relieve corporate aviation at McCarran International Airport.
Coursolle said the Clark County Department of Aviation has asked pilots taking off from the Henderson airport south to turn north immediately to not interfere with McCarran airspace. That would take pilots along the edge of Sage Mountain at a height of 300-400 feet, he said. Pilots then turn northeast up St. Rose Parkway and then south down Horizon Ridge Parkway.
Second is from residents of Seven Hills and Anthem communities to the airport’s east who are worried airplane noise will increase if planes start flying in that direction.
Despite the continuance, 15 residents near the airport spoke in opposition to the project at the March 4 council meeting. Their concerns ranged from increased airport noise, decreased property values, and the health and safety of people living around the airport.
Seven other people filled out comment cards in opposition but did not speak. City Council members did not comment during the meeting.
Terry Frazier, a resident of the Seven Hills neighborhood nearest the east side of the airport, said the airport and pilots voluntarily have worked to control the noise by using the nonhousing space to the west where the Sage Mountain development would go.
“The project would remove the only remaining clear area for air traffic control that isn’t developed by residential use right now,” Frazier said before the Planning Commission on Feb. 13.
The third group raising objections is made up of area businesses. Levi Strauss &Co. and FedEx Ground expressed concern that a housing development could harm businesses operations, which include using large trucks in the area. Sage Mountain planners have agreed to a city stipulation that neighborhood traffic not have direct access to Executive Airport Drive.
Gary Ferrone, director of operations for the Levi Strauss distribution center across the street from the proposed development, said the city agreed in 1994 to “protect and ensure compatible uses in the area.”
“We have a concern that mixing tractor-trailer traffic with residential traffic, children on bicycles and pedestrians is not what we would define as being compatible,” Ferrone said.
He added the company is concerned increased traffic around the 59-acre facility will hinder employee and truck traffic. Ferrone alse expressed concern about the security of the grounds with increased numbers of people living in the area.
FedEx Ground, which is building a 299,000-square-foot distribution facility south of Sage Mountain, sent a letter to the city noting that it plans to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, something that “is not readily compatible with nearby residential neighborhoods.”
SOME OTHER FEARS
Planning Commissioner Joe Belingheri said Henderson tries hard to lure industrial businesses to the city, and “we don’t want to make any decisions that discourage businesses from investing in our community.”
Stewart said Henderson is well-supplied with commercial retail and industrial space in the area of Sage Mountain, so pursuing a residential project made the most sense.
“From a retail perspective, we looked at west Henderson and did not feel that the retail demand or the commercial demand would be warranted for many, many years based on the lack of residential rooftops or customer base that drives many of these businesses,” Stewart said.
At the Feb. 13 Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Todd Howell, who said he has been a pilot for 20 years, said the plan would make a great development, just not near the airport.
“I would never vote for an item that’s going to harm an airport,” Howell said. “Single-family residential use near an airport is detrimental to the airport.”
While the county’s Aviation Department is weary of telling the city of Henderson how to regulate development, the department did warn that noise complaints increase with new homes.
“We have seen this happen around the valley, and we have heard and read similar stories from elsewhere,” said Christine Crews, spokeswoman for the department. “Everything to the east and southeast of Henderson Executive Airport is residential, and we have concerns about how future residents would react to airport operations if additional housing units were added to the west.”
The Aviation Department, which also oversees operations of McCarran and North Las Vegas Airport, expressed similar concerns during the 2006 process for City Crossing.
The Henderson Airport already is dealing with challenges of operating with Seven Hills and Anthem to the east and the 1,600-acre Inspirada housing project under construction to the south.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3882. Follow on Twitter @KnightlyGrind.