Aviation restrictions blamed in foreclosures - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Aviation restrictions blamed in foreclosures

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Posted: Saturday, May 30, 2009 10:21 pm | Updated: 2:24 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Not many backyards feature a garage with a door large enough for a semitrailer to pass through. Then again, most backyards don’t have Piper Apache airplanes parked in them.

Not many backyards feature a garage with a door large enough for a semitrailer to pass through.

Then again, most backyards don’t have Piper Apache airplanes parked in them.

For the owner of that six-seater aircraft, Dennis Brierton, there are too few similar backyards nearby. Development has mostly stalled in this neighborhood, which features a runway for small planes nestled between empty lots.

The neighborhood surrounding Pegasus Airpark is a mix of runway-adjacent homes and horse property.

The area is one of the hardest hit when it comes to foreclosures in Queen Creek. The town’s once rapid growth rate stalled, leaving empty homes and dusty lots in its wake.

But there is some optimism the number of foreclosures is leveling off, with just one more in Queen Creek in May than in April, according to a recent analysis. The town has a 2.4 percent foreclosure rate. The rate in Pegasus is 11 percent.

One reason is the economy. The other, according to Brierton and others associated with the neighborhood, is a restriction against landing helicopters and light jets.

Past president of the community’s flight association, Brierton was one of the driving forces behind a failed attempt to change the flight restrictions in October. But the Town Council rejected an application to allow helicopters, very light jets and jet fuel in the community, which currently allows planes with piston engines to take off.

Neighborhood leaders are readying to try to lift the restrictions again.

“All we’re trying to do is make this airport so it can be a viable part of the community,” Brierton said.

CAPTION

There are 44 homes built in the neighborhood and 131 vacant lots, according to the most recent data on file with Queen Creek.

Five of the homes are in foreclosure, although Brierton and Ron Serafinowicz, vice president of the flight association, said at least four of those were speculative homes built on horse lots. Driving through the neighborhood, clumps of “for sale” signs are indeed in the equestrian areas, but not the airplane lots.

Brierton said a couple of homes have been finished since the council vote in October, but building has definitely slowed.

Russ Brandt, Pegasus broker, said all the lots have been sold and none of the empty lots are in foreclosure. But financing is a problem. Owners can’t sell the land for what it’s worth because there’s not much financing to build homes on the lots.

Or consequently, “these are situations where they’ve bought the lots, but they can’t sell their homes to build the new ones,” Brandt said. “These people have their hands tied.”

But both Brierton and Serafinowicz contend more people would build if there were fewer restrictions on the type of aircraft allowed.

The airpark is allowed to have up to 225 aircraft. Planes must be under 12,500 pounds.

The original application would have added helicopters and jet engines to the mix, although it wouldn’t have increased the number or size of aircraft allowed.

“I want the ability, if I’m going to sell, to attract all potential buyers,” Brierton said. “Other aviation developments are booming and thriving and doing great. We’re not, and we think it’s because we can’t have helicopters.”

Serafinowicz said he was contacted by someone interested in buying a lot just a few days ago. But the person didn’t want to build because he had a helicopter.

Mike Spanos lived in Pegasus for more than two years before moving to Chandler’s Stellar Airpark in August.

The reason was simple.

“Because I could not fly my helicopter,” Spanos said. “I wanted to live in a community where I could come back from work and enjoy my toys.”

He said he was lucky to sell his home to someone who owns “three or four planes and at least two helicopters. He bought it with the hope they would pass the amendment.”

But at that meeting, 11 people, mostly neighbors in Orchard Ranch or in Pinal County, spoke against the change. Many cited noise and safety concerns.

Another 14 from Queen Creek and other cities spoke in favor. The council ultimately asked the Pegasus residents if they’d like to table the vote to give them more time to work out issues with neighbors, but the Pegasus group insisted on a vote that night.

Brierton says when the new application is submitted, which will likely be in the fall, the approach will be different.

“We have an opportunity to do it right this time,” he said. “We went in there a little pompous. I don’t know how else to put it.”

This time, the group will present a plan it has worked on with the nearby Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. They’d like to alter flight paths to make things safer in the air, Brierton said.

They’ll also have an aviation lawyer on board. And Brierton said they might be open to limiting the number of helicopters.

Spanos agreed even a limited number of helicopters could help sell the community. Based on his experience at Stellar, he doubted there would ever be more than five helicopters at Pegasus.

“Jets are allowed, helicopters are allowed” at Stellar, Spanos said. “There’s probably a couple hundred residents here, and there’s only three helicopters and only four jets.”

Spanos owns two Cessna planes, which have piston engines, and a helicopter. He said he’s done sound tests since moving to Stellar and found the helicopter is slightly quieter than either plane.

And no one complained about his helicopter’s noise at Pegasus, he said. He would periodically put the helicopter on a trailer, cart it outside the airpark and take off there, where helicopters are allowed.

Town Manager John Kross said town employees have had initial conversations with the neighborhood about submitting a new application. Once that happens, it could take 180 days or more to go to the full council because of the unique issues involved.

“The ball’s in their court,” Kross said.

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