FAIRFIELD — Solano County will consider changing its General Plan to ban new structures more than 200 feet high from a vast, rural area near Travis Air Force Base.
This area that county officials estimate at 180 square miles is beneath airspace used by Travis Air Force Base for assault landing maneuvers. Pilots in C-17 planes practice the type of unpredictable arrival and departure moves they might have to make when flying under fire in such places as Afghanistan.
The county Airport Land Use Commission voted Dec. 12, 2013, to create the assault landing zone training area overlay with the 200-foot height limit for new structures. The county Planning Commission on Thursday will discuss incorporating the change into the county General Plan.
Planning commissioners meet at 7 p.m. in the Solano County Board of Supervisors chamber at 675 Texas St.
No cities have land in the overlay zone. The zone extends from Travis Air Force Base east to near Rio Vista and from Suisun Marsh and Highway 12 north into the rural area between Vacaville and Dixon, almost to Midway Road at the northernmost point. The terrain ranges from wetlands to farmlands, for the most part.
The overlay zone would keep electricity-generating wind turbines on the scale of those found by the hundreds in the Montezuma Hills from being built north of Highway 12, as is allowed under the present General Plan. These wind turbines can top 300 feet from the ground to the top of an upturned blade.
Under Federal Aviation Administration rules, Travis planes cannot fly at altitudes of 500 feet if obstructions 200-feet-high are present, a county report said. Training at the base’s new assault landing zone strip involves making low-altitude maneuvers.
The Airport Land Use Commission’s action in December 2013 gave the county six months to bring its General Plan into compliance with the overlay zone, county Principal Planner Jim Leland said. Otherwise, review of individual projects in that area could transfer from the county to the airport commission, he said.
Planning commissioners can’t make the General Plan change on their own, but only make a recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors. Leland said the overlay zone issue should go to the county Board of Supervisors for action June 3.
Solano County supervisors last fall discussed the Travis Air Force Base assault landing training that began in spring 2013. The board passed a moratorium on utility-sized renewable energy projects such as wind turbines in the county while the Airport Land Use Commission worked on a Travis Air Force Base land use study.
But that study could take close to two years to complete. Leland said that’s why the Airport Land Use Commission created the assault landing zone training area overlay.
“Aircraft are currently flying in this training area at 500 feet above ground level,” Leland said. “The commission didn’t want to wait two years to implement something.”
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.