The Northgate Condominum project, a proposed 17-story condo building to be located just north of the University View on Route One, has been stalled thanks to restrictions relating to one of College Park’s proudest attractions – the oldest operating airport in the world.
The city’s April Economic Development Update reported that “Certification of the Detailed Site Plan has been stalled by a finding of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of a presumed hazard to air navigation based on the height of the building” and that “The Mark Vogel Companies, the project applicant, recently sold the property to ‘Mr. Northgate I LLC’ for $4.2 million in December 2006.” We got some additional information directly from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Obstruction Evaluation/Airport Airspace Analysis division. They told us that Monument Reality, the owner of the project, requested termination of the study, and that they expected the application may be resubmitted.
The FAA officials were adamant to assure us their determination alone couldn’t stop a project from being built. However, a quick review of county law indicates it may complicate the project considerably. After conducting a detailed study, in 2002 the county adopted specific regulations around general aviation airports in the county. The law created a host of regulations for property contained within zones around each airports known as “Aviation Policy Areas.” As can be seen in the illustration above, the entire northgate area is contained within an APA-4 or APA-6. The law specifies specific height restrictions for these zones:
Sec. 27-548.42. Height requirements.
(a) Except as necessary and incidental to airport operations, no building, structure, or natural feature shall be constructed, altered, maintained, or allowed to grow so as to project or otherwise penetrate the airspace surfaces defined by Federal Aviation Regulations Part 77 or the Code of Maryland, COMAR 11.03.05, Obstructions to Air Navigation.
(b) In APA-4 and APA-6, no building permit may be approved for a structure higher than 50 feet unless the applicant demonstrates compliance with FAR Part 77.
The Northgate building as proposed would be roughly 180 feet tall. What is “FAR Part 77,” you ask? Well, it is nothing more than the FAA’s airspace obstruction analysis process, which determined the building to be a hazard to begin with. As the law is written,the developer may be able to keep the existing proposed height of the building and enact mitigation measures (like the flashing red lights on University View) even if the FAA determines the project is a hazard. In correspondence between RTCP and Monument Realty, they indicated they were “confident the project would go forward” by the end of May.
On a side note, as we perused the FAA website we came across another application for Mark Vogel’s Hilton Hotel proposal, which has been put out for public comment (“circularized,” in FAA lingo) with an attached memo reporting it has been decided it was a “presumed hazard.” If you know more, post a comment, but we’ll make some inquiries and report back what we find.
> For more details, see: Prince George’s County Planning Board Airport Legislation and Regulations