Note: This article was updated at 2:45 p.m. on March 12.

Future development in the meadows surrounding Flying Cloud Airport continues on its slow road toward reality after a public hearing at last week's Joint Airport Zoning Board (JAZB) meeting.

The meeting, on Thursday, Feb. 28, was a quiet one. The purpose was to allow the public time to comment on a zoning ordinance before the board, but after an open house and presentation from Metropolitan Airports Commission airport planner Neil Ralston, nobody came forward to share thoughts or express concerns about the proposal.

What will the proposal allow?

The ordinance would add another layer to the regulations already in place for the land around the airport. That land is an area 2 miles to the west and 1.5 miles in all other directions around the airport. Here's what the proposal would limit: 

  • Anything that would encourage a large gathering of people, like a school, church, hospital or concert venue, will not be allowed within the new zoning area. The new ordinances would also disallow any landscaping or vegetation that would attract birds, in order to keep pilots and flocks out of the same airspace.
  • Any land use that would interfere with the pilots' radios would be prohibited, and don't hold your breath for any laser shows, either. Any lighting, including spotlights and lasers, that would make it difficult for pilots to distinguish between airport landing lights and other lights won't be allowed. However, rooftop solar panels won't be restricted by the new zoning laws.
  • Strict safety zones still exist directly adjacent to the airport and several thousand feet out to the sides. The airport would maintain control of this land.

Eden Prairie's city planner Julie Klima sits on the JAZB board to bring in the city's point of view and said in an email that there haven't been any applications for the land yet.

"As individual development projects are proposed they will be reviewed through the city’s public review process," she wrote. "The city will review the proposed projects for impacts and consistency with the city’s policies and regulations."

A 10-year process

The proposed ordinance has been in the works since 2009, when the original Flying Cloud Airport JAZB developed a draft that would allow businesses to be built around Eden Prairie's airport. The work paused in 2011 when the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) drew attention to legal uncertainties about Minnesota's airport zoning and pushed the project to the back burner. It stayed there until 2017, when the new Flying Cloud Airport JAZB reconvened and took up the project again, with consideration of new studies and ordinances.

Michael Beard, a JAZB member representing the city of Shakopee, asked Ralston why MNDOT had halted the process in 2011. It turns out that MNDOT and state legislators are in the midst of fine-tuning the state's airport zoning standards, with a hearing at the State Capitol the very same day as JAZB's meeting. Ralston assured the board that their proposed ordinance for Flying Cloud will be honored as custom ordinances once the new rules take effect.

Since reopening the project in 2017, the board has flown through the process, approving the final ordinance for public review on Jan. 7 and submitting the proposal to MNDOT on the same day.

Aho noted that although it's been a decade since the ordinance was first proposed, the recent progress has been "a good process" with the inclusion of many stakeholders from around the region, including representatives from surrounding cities and regional airport advisory commissions.

Next steps

The window for public comment remains open until Wednesday, March 13, at 5 p.m. JAZB will schedule its next meeting after the public comment period ends to discuss the comments and consider adopting the final Flying Cloud Airport Zoning Ordinance.

Residents can submit written comments by email to fcm.zoning@mspmac.org or send them to the Secretary to the FCM Joint Airport Zoning Board at 6040 28th Ave S, Minneapolis, to have them considered at JAZB's next meeting.

Note: This article was updated to more accurately represent the proposed ordinance for Flying Cloud Airport.

Eden Teller is the multimedia reporter for Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about fostering productive conversations and empowering communities. When she's not reporting, she can be found reading a book, on a hike or tackling home improvement projects.

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