FAA Headquarters Request for Determination

Federal Aviation Administration
Airport Compliance Division (ACO-100)
800 Independence Avenue SW
Washington DC 20591

Phone: (202) 267-3085
Fax: (202) 267-5257

Ms. Swigart,

I intended to copy the Chief Counsel’s office on this message but was unable to locate an email address. At your convenience, please copy this message to that office.

About three weeks ago I sent a message to Tony Garcia at the Western-Pacific ADO requesting his review of residential development projects recently approved by the Scottsdale City Council for construction in the immediate vicinity of Scottsdale Airport.

I am a user of Scottsdale Airport who benefits from the millions of dollars in user-funded FAA airport improvement grant investment. I am also a taxpaying resident of Scottsdale who appreciates the economic benefit of Scottsdale Airport to our community. I’m am also a user of Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, and thus benefit from having “reliever” facilities like Scottsdale Airport to help reduce congestion at Sky Harbor. I am concerned that residential encroachment will affect the long-term utility—and ultimately the viability—of our airport.

Mr. Garcia’s reply (upon which you were copied) was timely, thorough, well-reasoned, and sensible. However, those nuances seem to have escaped Scottsdale’s Mayor and City Council.

The City received Mr. Garcia’s letter after approving the “Zocallo” project two weeks ago (the City Council action report for Zocallo was attached to Mr. Garcia’s reply). However, last week the City Council approved another yet another residential land use change, this one on the site of the “CrackerJax” recreational facility west of Scottsdale Airport. The case number is 8-GP-2011 and the Council action report is available here:


The CrackerJax location, incidentally, happens to be the visual reporting point for Scottsdale Airport helicopter operations to and from the north and west, with a customary “at or below 500 feet AGL” crossing instruction.

Perhaps the best illustration of the need for clarity from your office was a comment made by Scottsdale Vice-Mayor Linda Milhaven during additional deliberation of this issue last week. The video of the City Council meeting at which she made the comment can be seen here:


The Vice-Mayor’s comment is at about 0:50:30:

“…it’s pretty clear this letter from the FAA [Garcia] can be read from both sides and so we can all pick a sentence or two that supports our point of view so I’ll take my turn and pick one.”

I commend the Vice Mayor for thinking out-of-the-box. However, while this represents a novel and innovative approach to compatible use planning for airports, I respectfully suggest it is perhaps not the best way to analyze these issues.

We have seen similar creative “sentence picking” by our elected officials with regard to Scottsdale Airport’s Part 150 guidance. Most of us who understand aviation, the airport, the concept of compatible use, etc., understand that residential uses within one runway length of the airport are a very bad idea. Our Part 150 study is supposed to help those without similar experience and knowledge to come to the same conclusion. However, it has failed us in the present example.

But wait, there’s more. There is a third project under consideration by the City Council: “Scottsdale Airpark Community,” case number 7-GP-2011.

This project was “continued” by the Council until their December 6th meeting where it will be considered for approval. The Council Action Report is here:


Can you help us determine whether these projects are a good idea or a bad idea for Scottsdale Airport? Do they represent an incompatible use? Will we experience increased noise complaints as a result? Will they make it more likely or less likely for Scottsdale Airport to get FAA funding in the future?

I realize that I may be pushing my luck with a final request here, but these projects have apparently risen to the level of a ‘real estate emergency.’ There was significant urgency in the Council’s desire to get them passed, including having the Airport Advisory Commission meet a week early to consider the cases. I might add that even though the AAC voted 4-2 recommending against approval of all three projects, the City Council ultimately ignored that recommendation and approved two of them anyway.

Actions of our City Council do not become law for 30 days in order to allow for legal challenges. We still have a few days left to potentially have the Council reconsider the Zocallo case and modify or overturn their approval. I believe that since Zocallo was approved on 18 October, we still have until 18 November (a week from Friday). Scottsdale City staff can confirm or correct this.

CrackerJax has another week beyond Zocallo.

Any priority you can assign to this inquiry would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance,


John Washington




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