FAA Proposes New Building Height Restrictions

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The FAA wants to reduce the allowable height of buildings near hundreds of airports a proposal that is drawing fire from real estate developers and members of Congress who say it will reduce property values. The proposal, supported by airports and airlines, is driven by encroaching development that limits safe flight paths for planes that might lose power on one engine during takeoff. The proposal would change the way the agency assesses plans to build new structures or modify existing structures near 388 airports to take into account the hazard that would be created to one-engine takeoffs. For example, under the proposal a building located 10,000 feet from the end of a runway would have a maximum allowable height of 160 feet instead of the current limit of 250 feet, according to an analysis by the Weitzman Group, a New York real estate consulting firm, according to an ABC News report. As the distance from an airport increases, the allowable building height increases as well. The proposal could affect buildings as far as 10 miles from an airport.

To limit the number of buildings and other structures affected by the proposal, the FAA is recommending airports and local zoning boards work together to select a single flight path for each runway that planes can use in the event that an engine quits, said John Speckin, the FAA deputy regional administrator in charge of the proposal. The new height limits would only apply to structures in that path, he said. "We're trying to create a balance of the aviation needs and the development needs in the local community," he said in an online briefing Wednesday. But even with that limitation, thousands of existing and planned structures would be affected, said Peter Bazeli, who wrote the Weitzman analysis. Existing buildings along the path would not have to be altered, but a property owner who wanted to increase the height of a building or replace it with a taller building might be out of luck.