Coyotes arena vote: FAA again warns of noise-related residential problems

Jun 2, 2022, 11:05 AM

Noise overlay zones for Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport (Courtesy of Arizona Coyotes)...

Noise overlay zones for Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport (Courtesy of Arizona Coyotes)

(Courtesy of Arizona Coyotes)

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a letter to the Tempe city manager warning the city of noise-related issues if it approves an entertainment district that would house the Arizona Coyotes’ new arena.

It was dated Wednesday, a day before a crucial vote on the Coyotes’ proposal.

Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport made the letter from FAA regional administrator Tamara A. Swann to Tempe city manager Andrew Ching public on Thursday.

“Today (the) Tempe City Council decides whether to begin negotiating a new entertainment district straight east of our busiest runway. Sky Harbor is not opposed to the proposed arena,” the airport’s statement added, “but as this new letter from the FAA states, residential is absolutely incompatible.”

The FAA’s letter is less absolute and “strongly encourages” Tempe to take the proper steps to ensure that the development is compatible and adds that it “does not support residential development within areas experiencing aviation-related noise levels above an average of 65 decibels.”

The FAA’s Neighborhood Environmental Survey said that decibel levels at 65 decibels were found to make 60-70% of people “highly annoyed.”

The FAA adds that the city of Tempe holds the final say on the matter.

Additionally, the city of Phoenix on May 26 sent Tempe a letter saying that a plan for more than 1,000 residential units in the entertainment district broached a 1994 Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the two cities about building housing so close to Sky Harbor, reported

Tempe will hold presentations for the arena plan led by the Coyotes and public comments on Thursday before voting to continue allowing the hockey team to plan their arena district.

A “yes” vote would not cement the Coyotes’ arena at the location. It would, however, enter a long negotiating period indicating the city wants to move forward with planning a hockey arena, as well as hotels, offices, and retail and residential spaces.

But a “no” vote would mean Tempe declined the plans from the Coyotes and Bluebird Development, LLC. The city council “could choose after this to issue a new call for proposals at this location,” according to Tempe’s press release.

The Coyotes and FAA have already discussed ensuring that construction crane heights, building heights and development of noise-related housing would allow for the plans to go through.

The NHL team, which ended their 19-year run at Glendale’s Gila River Arena with their 2021-22 season, addressed some of the FAA’s concerns on their website about the planned move to Tempe.

“All proposed residential structures within this proposed development will be built to mitigate noise to FAA recommended levels,” the Coyotes’ website said regarding the noise concerns.

But in the letter dated Wednesday, the FAA writes that “… while sound insulation treatment may be incorporated into residential structures, the residents living within the proposed (entertainment district) will continue to experience aviation noise levels at or above (65 decibels) while enjoying outdoor activities and open windows.”

The FAA also said in the letter that its Airport Improvement Program funding cannot be used for noise mitigation on the project because it is limited to existing developments.

The Coyotes plan to move into a temporary home at Arizona State University’s new multi-purpose arena for the next few years while they construct a permanent home.

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