In many cities, urban growth now fills the farmland that once surrounded Navy and Air Force airfields. Real estate development and finance near Navy and Air Force runways, however, requires special attention to a special set of restrictions called “AICUZ.” These Department of Defense regulations severely restrict land located near military runways. It is easy to overlook (or overfly) them in your review of real estate title, because they sometimes are implemented as zoning restrictions – and typically not expressly listed in the real estate title commitment or report.
Think of AICUZ as “stealth” or hidden restrictions on the development and use of real property.
As an Air Force brat, I literally lived under the sights and sounds of the F-86 Sabre, the F-101 Vodoo, the F-4 Phantom and the B-52 Stratofortress, with an occasional U-2.
They were LOUD, but as Air Force brats, we barely noticed them. (Ok, you always stopped to watch the U-2s). (And yes, since Dad worked in base ops, I did sit in the cockpit of a U-2.)
However, we did stop one day when the sound of an approaching F-101 didn’t have the usual rhythmic pulse. The sound stopped us as the bird wobbled overhead, and then over the ridge line toward the runway.
Almost immediately after the plane disappeared (on what Dad called “final approach” to the runway), the pilot popped up over the ridgeline (sitting in his seat), his parachute deployed, he lifted off the seat, next came a muffled explosion, and then a black cloud.
In a few minutes, a helicopter raced toward the spot where the parachute disappeared.
We jumped up and down – we were part of the action! Of course, no one believed any of this the next day at school.
Today, reviewing title as part of financing a project will never has us jumping up and down – unless you fail to discover the AICUZ restrictions associated with the neighboring military airbase.
Here’s how the City of Virginia Beach describes AICUZ:
“The purpose of the AICUZ (Air Installation Compatible Use Zone) Program is to protect the health, safety and welfare from noise and hazards through compatible development in the airport environment. The program was instituted by the Department of Defense to address the problem of land development surrounding military air installations. It provides for the development and implementation of a plan to determine those land areas for which development should be significantly influenced by the operation of the airfield. These land areas are then designated as the AICUZ for that installation.”
This depiction of the AICUZ south of the runway (at the Joint Reserve Base) in Fort Worth will help you understand the impact of an AICUZ:
Fort Worth AICUZ at Joint Reserve Base
(Thanks to Elizabeth Solender for bringing the Fort Worth AICUZ to my attention.)
Next time you’re dealing with real property located near a military airfield, don’t overlook AICUZ restrictions.
Missing AICUZ restrictions could be a “hard landing” for the profitability of your project.
It could even turn the investment into a ball of smoke.