Airport Safety Zone

You may have seen signs around the airport advertising the current "Airport Safety Zone."  This safety zone is mandated by the New Jersey statute Title 16 Chapter 62: Air Safety and Zoning.

Permitted uses within the Airport Safety Zone include “residential single-family dwelling units which are situated on a lot at least three acres in size…”, open space, agricultural transportation, airport, commercial, and industrial. Prohibited uses include residential dwelling units on less than three acres, multifamily dwellings, hospitals, and schools.

The Safety Zone will enlarge if the runway expands.  While existing properties are likely to continue as nonconforming uses in an enlarged Safety Zone, amendments to the Air Safety and Hazardous Zoning Act of 1983 require that sellers of properties located in Airport Safety Zones provide notice to prospective buyers.

Click on the adjacent map to see the depiction of the Airport Safety Zone  for a 5,000' runway distributed by Readington Township at the public meetings of 2006. Note that Holland Brook and Readington Schools are immediately adjacent to the Airport Safety Zone.

Runway & Airport Safety Zone Layouts

Runway Layouts & Impact On Nearby Properties

The Airport Master Plan considered 3 runway placement alternatives and recommended Alternative #3, which is basically to pave and extend the existing glider runway (3-21) that runs parallel to the main runway; and turn the current main runway (4-22) into a taxiway.

At each end of the runway, NJDOT defines a Runway End Subzone that extends 3,000 feet from the end of the runway along a course parallel with the centerline of the runway. A Clear Zone is defined for the first 1,000 feet within the Runway End Subzone, in which no structures are allowed above grade level. The remainder of the Runway End Subzones are subject to height restrictions.

For the runway layout recommended in the Master Plan (Alternative 3), the Clear Zone extends across Readington Road and Holland Brook (see maps below).  This alternative also places Hillcrest Park within the Safety Zone and the Runway End Subzone.  One residential property would have to be acquired (presumably by eminent domain if the property owner is not willing to sell).

Click below to see maps of the 3 runway alternatives discussed in the Master Plan:

     >  Runway Alternative 3

     >  Runway Alternative 2

     >  Runway Alternative 1

In addition to the requirements of the New Jersey statute, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains design standards for airports (AC 150/5300 13A). Included in these mandatory standards is an area at the end of each runway known as a Runway Protection Zone (RPZ). It is similar in shape to the Clear Zone of the NJ statute with very similar restrictions for use.

While the NJ statute for the Clear Zone establishes a minimum requirement,  the FAA standards for the RPZ are generally more restrictive, and the FAA standards pre-empt State standards. The smallest RPZ for the B-II aircraft the expanded airport will support is over 55% larger than the NJ Clear Zone. With the precision instrument approach, called for in the Master Plan, the minimum RPZ is over 280% larger than the Clear Zone, extending beyond the runway end by 1,900 feet.

Given the FAA’s more restrictive standards for the mandatory RPZ the impact on properties beyond the airport’s boundaries could very likely be more severe than that considered by the analysis of the New Jersey Airport Safety Zone.