Archive for Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wichita may limit development near base

November 21, 2006


— In a move to protect McConnell Air Force Base from future rounds of base closures, community leaders are proposing to limit the height of new buildings near the base and restrict development of nearby vacant land to industrial businesses.

It is part of a strategy Wichita, Sedgwick County, Derby and McConnell have examined since the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure rounds that shut down military installations across the country.

Community leaders wanted to send a message to Washington, D.C., that McConnell is keeping residential growth at bay and preparing for any future missions that include more Air Force officers or louder jets, said Scott Knebel, Wichita's principal planner.

"There will be people that have problems with this because it's change," he said, but adding that it will be worth it.

The plan, endorsed last week by the Wichita City Council, would limit residential development near the base, and puts in place anti-terrorism rules that would ban any structures taller than 25 feet in neighborhoods closest to the base.

Under the proposal, new construction must have sound-resistant windows to block out the roar of jets, adding as much as $3,000 to the cost of new houses.

One developer already is scrapping plans for a subdivision south of the base, and another plans to fight proposed zoning changes to keep people from moving into an area near McConnell.

City officials contend McConnell is essential to the local economy, citing a 2004 study showing the base has a $396 million annual impact on the city and employs more than 3,900 people.

The plan will not affect existing structures in the area, which will be grandfathered in.

The City Council's preliminary approval of the plan last week set in motion a long process of public forums and planning recommendations before the final vote.


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