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Sun, Dec 17, 2006

Boeing And Home Developer Reach Agreement In Mesa

Builder Agrees To Relocate Homes Away From Flightpath

Pacific Proving LLC wants to build 3,000 homes next to Williams Gateway Airport (IWA) near Mesa, AZ. Boeing said the homes would restrict its helicopter operations forcing the company to look at moving out of the state.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations restrict how Boeing conducts experimental flight test operations over residential areas.

A last minute agreement was reached between the two entities after some local and state political wrangling -- just in time for December 18 City Council discussion on the development project.

The compromise removes some of the development's planned homes from Boeing's flight path to elsewhere on the property. The dispute involved about 200 acres of the planned 1,700 acres of desert on the southern half of the GM Desert Proving Ground.

Mary Baldwin, director of communications for Boeing, told the East Valley Tribune, "We reluctantly go in to this compromise, but it's something that's workable for all parties. It still gives us the ability to do our flight operations."

This had been a major issue for the aviation giant. Boeing's plant at Mesa's Falcon Field tests the Apache helicopter, where 80 were produced just last year, pumping some $443 million into Arizona's economy. And with four facilities at Williams Gateway and 4,700 employees, Boeing is Mesa's largest private employer.

Mark Metzger, manager of flight test facilities for Boeing, told the East Valley Tribune that aviation firms have been challenged for decades by the encroachment of homes around airports that were once in the middle of nowhere, a situation similar to what was happening at Williams Gateway.

"The decision is whether you want more houses or more jobs like we have here."

Fortunately, it looks like both developer and aviation can exist in harmony.

The compromise allows the council to vote on a major amendment to the city's general plan, which would allow Pacific Proving to build homes, commercial businesses, high-rise office buildings and business parks on the desert property.

Boeing is no stranger to urban encroachment. After all, the same problem drove the company to move a plant out of Culver City, CA, to Mesa in the 1980s.



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