Airport: More plane traffic coming

Nov. 1—HIGH POINT — Piedmont Triad International Airport officials have a message for the city: More aircraft traffic over north High Point is coming, so keep new housing out of the way.

The City Council is considering whether to open more than 1,000 acres to new residential development, which has been prohibited there for about 20 years because of noise from overhead flights to and from the airport.

PTIA is OK with the city's proposal but, in a recent briefing, PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker made clear its opposition to a request from a local developer to further loosen the city restrictions to allow for housing closer to the airport.

"We passionately protect the approaches to all of the runways, because that's where we could potentially get into problems moving forward," Baker told the council. "Every residential unit that gets constructed becomes a risk to us."

City staff is recommending reducing the airport overlay district from 11,835 acres to 9,042 acres based on PTIA's 2040 master plan forecast. If approved by the council, the changes would allow new residential development in about 1,400 acres that are far enough away from the runway approaches not to draw opposition from PTIA leaders.

But developer Barry Siegal has asked the council to allow apartments to be constructed on property he bought last year on Sandy Ridge Road just south of the airport that's within a zone where only industrial development is allowed.

He argues that the restrictions are preventing the city from gaining much-needed multifamily housing. Much of the airport overlay district is in Guilford County and can be developed under its regulations, Siegal said, which would preclude the city from annexing it for commercial or industrial growth.

Baker urged the council to reject Siegal's request and instead adopt staff's recommendations, which would keep the ban on new residential construction in place within the zone of Siegal's proposed project.

He said the airport has received 481 noise complaints from the High Point area since 2018. The more housing that is permitted near the airport, the more likely it is that residents could file litigation that could make it harder to attract major economic development projects such as the FedEx air cargo hub, which took nearly four years to obtain environmental approvals, according to PTIA.

"In today's world, we lose that project, probably, because you can't tell a company, 'We'll be ready for you in 42 months,' and expect to have a win," Baker said.

The airport has an annual impact of $8.6 billion on the local economy, supporting 30,000 jobs, about 8,600 of which are on the airport property itself, according to an N.C. Department of Transportation study.

Baker said more development, including Boom Supersonic, which plans to make passenger jets at the airport, is coming.

"Boom is taking 65 acres. We have 1,000 acres of land, and we're actively marketing that and will continue to do that," he said. "I'm quite convinced that in a year, we're going to have other projects we'll be talking about."