By Pat Jenkins
The Dispatch
A proposal for building homes near Swanson Field in Eatonville shouldn’t go through the planning process again, the Town Council has decided.
Councilman Robert Thomas’ request in January to send the Aviator Heights project back to the town’s Planning Commission for more public review as a new proposal was turned down by the rest of the council, which had the backing of a court ruling last year on a separate but similar challenge of the project.
Thomas claimed the developers should resubmit their plans because the project, as proposed, violates land-use guidelines for the location of homes near airports. He also said the time period for a final approval of the plans has passed.
At a council meeting Jan. 9, four citizens voiced support of Thomas’ request. They included Martin Miller, a member of the Planning Commission. Miller said another commission review is in order.
But the town attorney disagreed with Thomas, saying the council’s prior approval of preliminary plans was done correctly and that the developer could sue the town – and win – if the council went back on its earlier action.
Thomas was outvoted 3-1 by his fellow council members on his request to send Aviator Heights back to the commission.
It’s the second challenge the project has overcome in the past seven months. Last June, a Pierce County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the town by Steve Van Cleve, an aviation activist who claimed the council improperly authorized new plans for Aviator Heights.
The project, which calls for single-family homes to be built adjacent
to the landing strip at Swanson Field, has been on the drawing board in one form or another since 2007. Its original developer proposed a residential airpark for private pilots to keep their airplanes at homes that would be built at the tiny airport. Van Cleve, in claims similar to those made by Thomas, stated an airpark is more suitable than "regular" residential housing for the airstrip's long-term future. He also contended an Aviation Heights plat approval expired.
Development of the Aviator Heights property languished until
homebuilder Dan Simon began seeking the council's approval in 2013 to build 23 single-family homes. The number was reduced to 21 because of aviation safety-related concerns raised by the Federal Aviation Administration. Construction hasn’t started.