Phoenix City Council OKs height rules for buildings

Ginger D. Richardson The Arizona Republic Mar. 30, 2006 12:00 AM

PHOENIX - City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday to approve new rules that will prevent officials from issuing a building permit for any property whose height could pose a threat to Sky Harbor International Airport.

The council's action changes the city's existing building-construction code and essentially means that Phoenix, by law, will have to acquiesce to the Federal Aviation Administration if it determines a high-rise building or tower is hazardous to planes using the airport.

Normally, an FAA ruling would have no power to stop a development from moving forward.

The vote is an aggressive move and is designed to protect the economic viability of Sky Harbor, the nation's fifth busiest airport.

"If there ever was a question as to our policy, not that there should have been, I hope this answers that now and into the future," Councilwoman Peggy Bilsten said after the vote.

One of the first projects that could fall victim to the new rules is a 39-story hotel and condominium project proposed by Phoenix Suns majority owner Robert Sarver. The FAA has already made a preliminary ruling that the $200 million-plus property, located downtown next to the US Airways Center, could be a threat to planes because of its 450-foot height. Late last week, the federal agency opened up a public comment period on the project; a final decision is expected in the coming months.

Phoenix's new policy was approved Wednesday under an emergency clause, meaning it takes effect as soon as Mayor Phil Gordon signs it.

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