Refreshed airport area plan aims for economic gains - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Refreshed airport area plan aims for economic gains

October 26th, 2021 development
Refreshed airport area plan aims for economic gains

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

The airpark surrounding Chandler Municipal Airport is mostly developed, with only about 15 percent of vacant land remaining.

So it’s a surprising time to update the master plan. And that’s exactly what the City Council did at its Oct. 14 meeting.

“We have a series of area plans that are aging,” said Kevin Mayo, the city’s planning administrator. “They were all adopted when Chandler was in kind of the build-up mentality and growth curve. As we’re hitting under 10 percent of vacant land left in Chandler, we’re in an in-fill and development frame of mind. All of our area plans will be getting a look.”

This city is running out of room to grow, so projects need to be more focused and reflect that new reality. Still, the changes the Chandler City Council made to the Airpark Area Plan last week were pretty minor, although the plan stresses the need for its existence:

“The Chandler Airpark Area represents the last great chance for economic development in the City of Chandler.”

Mayo said, “It wasn’t viewed as a complete rewrite. It was a refining of the 1998 Area Plan.”

Mayo said one goal they had was not to change any non-residential land to residential.

The Airport Master Plan, a separate document that was considered in the update of airpark area document, called encroachment by residential development, particularly apartments a threat to the airport’s viability as an economic engine for the city.

“Basically, we doubled down on the intent for employment growth,” Mayo said said.

Planners focused on which types of businesses they hope to bring to Chandler: high tech and aviation companies, research and development firms and health care businesses.

The original Airpark Area Plan was adopted in 1998, when there was little but farmland surrounding the airport. The two exceptions were the start of a subdivision south of Queen Creek Road and the city’s water treatment facility.

Another update Council approved to its master plan involved design standards. They are raising the bar because they want to attract top businesses and ensure the airpark is able to retain those companies.

“A previous airpark area plan did not have design guidelines, so it was all regulated on a case-by-case basis through our zoning and design review process,” Mayo said.

Mayo said the hope was that all the development would have been completed around the airport by now. However, both the economic downturn caused by the banking crisis in 2008 and the COVID pandemic slowed down their momentum.

“A predecessor to me, and a predecessor for our economic development director once said, ‘One of the best resources a city can have is vacant land for uses that you don’t even know yet.’”

Now, Mayo said that this update to the Airpark Area Plan will serve as a guide for the next 20 years to that part of the city. He said it would have been our earlier, but like so many other projects, it got delayed by the pandemic.

Mayo said now that the airpark is done, the next area they will focus on is downtown, which he said has seen tremendous growth.

And then it will be on to the next area plan.