Rhode Island Airport Commission failed to meet FAA rule for 60 years ?

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Well run airports are attentive to the long list of FAA requirements. Tasks, which may seem to be mere paperwork, are studiously complied with by management. The Rhode Island Airport Commission otherwise would qualify as one of the more attentive managements as measured by regulatory compliance. The below failure, 60 years without filing airport overlay zoning regulations,  seems to be out of character!!!

Well run airports tend to pay attention to the details

Rhode Island Airport Commission took 60 years to impose an airport overlay zoning regulation

Colonel Robert F. Wood Airpark a/k/a Newport State Airport a/k/a UUU

New zoning sought for land around Newport State Airport


The land for the Newport State Airport, [UUU] known locally as the Colonel Robert F. Wood Airpark, was acquired by the state almost 60 years ago, but there has never been any airport overlay zoning regulations imposed on the properties surrounding the airport.

The purpose of the overlay district would be to protect navigable airspace around the airport and incorporate the Federal Aviation Regulations that support this goal, according to a document drawn up by Town Planner Ronald Wolanski.

The district also would establish and maintain a safe operating environment around the airport and support it as a transportation facility, Wolanski said.

The 223-acre airport between Forest Avenue and Oliphant Lane is busier than many people realize. State Sen. Louis DiPalma, D-Middletown, said recently the number of flights at the airport has jumped 20% from 40,000 to 50,000 over the past five years. Rhode Island Airport Corporation[1] officials did not respond before the press deadline to multiple requests for updated figures on the number of aircraft operations annually at Newport State Airport.

When Middletown had its Comprehensive Community Plan approved by the state in 2015, there was a commitment to the state to adopt an Airport Hazard Area Overlay District on properties surrounding the airport, Wolanski said.

The main items to be addressed are the height of buildings and other structures in surrounding properties like cell towers, as well as allowed usages of the parcels.

“They don’t want any high population uses such as multi-family housing, a school or any other venue holding a lot of people in approaches to the runway,” Wolankski said.

“The Federal Aviation Administration has restrictions on building heights and we would incorporate those FAA requirements in our zoning,” he said. “The heights vary, depending on how close they are to the runways and whether they are in the runway approaches or takeoffs, which are more of a concern than on the sides.”

The airport land itself is zoned for light industrial, but because it is state-owned land overseen by RIAC, it is exempt from zoning.

“Our concern will be the property surrounding the airport,” Wolanski said about the upcoming planning.


But if anything like cell towers were proposed in any of these areas, the overlay district would indicate where they were prohibited and what the height restrictions would be in other areas of the overlay district.

RIAC prepared in 2013 a guidebook to assist local officials with the tools to plan for and enforce land uses that are compatible with local general aviation airports.

UUU has considerable potential and its recent growth may be indicative of greater demands on the airport. RIAC’s delayed request for airport overlay zoning regulations, though late, may still be timely.


[1] The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) is a quasi-public corporation that receives no funds from the State’s General Purpose fund for the operation and maintenance of any of the six airports under its jurisdiction. The RIAC is empowered to undertake the planning, development, management, acquisition, ownership, operations, repair, construction, improvement, maintenance, sale, lease or other disposition of any “airport facility” as defined in Rhode Island General Law. Airports: T.F. Green Airport, Warwick; North Central Airport, Smithfield; Quonset Airport, North Kingstown; Westerly Airport, Westerly; Newport Airport, Newport; Block Island Airport, Block Island.

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