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Newport activists want to ground proposed helipad near JWA

Some of the concerns include student safety because Mariner's Christian School is 900 feet away and noise levels for neighbors.

July 28, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com

A Costa Mesa developer has applied to build a helicopter landing pad atop an office building next to John Wayne Airport, and Newport Beach officials and activists are lining up to fight it.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Newport Councilman Keith Curry asked the city manager to consider opposing the project.

Because most JWA planes take off over Newport, its residents have traditionally fought the hardest against airport expansion and noise.

But the developer and at least one Costa Mesa city official say they have stepped too far in this case. The conflict raises the questions of what is an airport expansion, and how much should Newport Beach residents intervene in their neighbors' affairs.

"Newport wants to clamp down on any expansion of the airport footprint," said Newport Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who sits on the Airport Land Use Commission.

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Daigle was the lone dissenting vote when the commission approved the helipad application last week. She said she couldn't approve the project because the business owner hadn't performed a noise study and, in her opinion, it was "amorphous growth of the airport," among other concerns.

Newport and Costa Mesa are part of the Corridor Cities Coalition, which has pledged to prevent expanding the airport's physical footprint.

The one-story building at 3132 Airway Ave. is in Costa Mesa, so the next step in the approval process is at the city's Planning Commission. In the light industrial area west of the airport, the office property abuts JWA land. It shares a chain link fence, said Kevin Coleman, a Costa Mesa real estate developer who owns the building.

He wants to build the helipad to accommodate his new tenant, Leading Edge Aviation Services, a commercial aircraft painting company.

Leading Edge executives want to be able to drop off and pick up clients on the roof, instead of walking to their nearby hangar.

"It would be like you go to work and have to park two blocks down the street," Coleman said.

Headquartered on the other side of JWA for years, Leading Edge has now outgrown its space, Coleman said.

The company has three facilities in the South, one in Victorville, and another in Malaysia. Its clients include Delta, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and other global carriers.

Started by Castaway's resident Michael Manclark in 1989 with five employees, Leading Edge now has annual revenues of more than $27 million, according to its website.

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