Land Use Management and Airport Controls

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The project’s focus was primarily on assessment of how incompatible land use impacts airports, and how this fuels noise concerns and complaints. The research team worked closely with airport administrators, civic leaders, and aviation organizations to identify and collect data concerning the most prominent issues precipitated by the incompatible land uses. Useful data was collected from personal interviews and focus groups, which provided a balanced view of the noise complaint data.

Denver, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, and Orlando-Sanford international airports, were selected for the study, representing three distinct profiles. Denver is a new airport that was originally considered to have good geographic separation from populated land use areas; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood experienced a rapid growth in airline traffic in recent years; and Orlando-Sanford is a medium-sized commercial airport with a history of moderate commercial air traffic. The study reviewed the history of noise complaints for the affected airports. Issues related to annoyance, trends and cycles in the number of complaints at the airport were identified. Potential patterns in the geographic location of complaints and concerns were discussed. Interviews of airport and municipal officials were also conducted for their perspective on airport noise concerns and land use strategies.


The study’s major findings are:

  • A disproportionate number of complaints come from a few households.
  • Population size tends to increase near airports.
  • Housing units construction occurs at a rate higher than for the surrounding county, particularly for the first few decades of an airport’s operation. This indicates the necessity of instituting appropriate zoning ordinances early in the development of new airports to limit (or prohibit) the construction of residential units in incompatible locations.
  • Although each of the three selected airports was unique, a lack of communication among stakeholders was found to be the root of almost every issue. These gaps in communication led to noise annoyance grievances between airport officials and the residents of surrounding communities. It also led to multiple problems involving local land use planning and incompatible land use development.
  • Each of the airports had noise abatement strategies, but these procedures were not always followed. Generally, each airport found it difficult to enact noise mitigation strategies that would alleviate the concerns of the community as a whole without creating other issues of the significant impact.
  • Additional research using psychoacoustic assessments of noise complaint populations, a critical assessment of land use decisions, a more in-depth look at noise levels and characteristics of aircraft, and the dynamics and drivers of public concerns would benefit noise and land use management.

Participating universities

Florida International University
Purdue University

Lead investigator

Kai Ming Li, Purdue University,

Project manager

Patricia Friesenhahn


  • Land Use Management and Airport Controls: A further study of trends and indicators of incompatible land use. Kai Ming Li, Gary Eiff. September 2008. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2008-006 Download (pdf 3.3M)
  • Land Use Management and Airport Controls: Trends and indicators of incompatible land use. (Project final report) Kai Ming Li, Gary Eiff, John Laffitte, Dwayne McDaniel. December 2007. (Report No. PARTNER-COE-2008-001) Download (pdf 8.2M)