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Tempe Entertainment District FAQs

Tempe Entertainment District FAQs

Why did the City of Phoenix Aviation Department file a lawsuit against the City of Tempe on March 28, 2023?

The cities of Phoenix and Tempe have a decades old intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that protects the airport and residents surrounding the airport. Tempe has taken multiple actions over the last couple of years that we believe violate their obligations under this agreement. We thought we had a framework agreement with Tempe that would allow these projects to go forward so long as Tempe promised to live up to their obligations going forward. In fact 3 times we believed we had a negotiated deal with Tempe, but in every instance, Tempe Council ultimately rejected it. In the most recent rejection, Tempe even called into question the FAA’s approval of the official area of high noise impact and suggested their own consultant would ultimately need to review and decide whether the FAA was right.  Given the FAA is the authority on this matter, Phoenix realized that continued delays by Tempe were not going to resolve this issue.  Tempe left Phoenix with no choice but to put this in the hands of a Judge to decide.


Didn’t you agree in the November Tempe City Council meeting to support the development?

In the recorded November Tempe Council meeting, Phoenix Director of Aviation Services, Chad Makovsky made clear that he must continue to oppose the homes proposed in the Tempe Entertainment District (TED) development. He did say however that we made substantial progress and he was optimistic this could be resolved so long as both the Developer and Tempe lived up to their commitments. So far, the developer HAS lived up to their commitments.  Tempe has not agreed to do so. If we were the developer, we would be pretty upset about this turn of events too. We do not understand why Tempe Council does not want to support the reasonable resolutions to address Tempe’s breach of contract that we negotiated with the Tempe City Manager and staff.


Are you doing this so you can expand the airport?

The airport is a public agency here to support our entire region. Our job is to ensure the safe and efficient operation of Sky Harbor – one of the world’s busiest airports. Any suggestion we are devising a scheme to get out of the agreement so we can dramatically expand our airport is patently false. All of our development plans are posted on our website – and have been for years. We’ve briefed both the Tempe Aviation Commission and the Tempe Council in public briefings about our development plans.


Do you want to get out of the IGA?

No – the agreement between our two cities serves to protect everybody’s interests. But the agreement between our two cities is not a one-sided agreement. We will not allow Tempe to disregard their commitments while expecting us to live up to ours. If Tempe wants to pull out of the agreement, we’ll entertain it, but that is not our desired outcome given the protections it provides to the airport and surrounding communities.


What about Phoenix stadiums and arenas? Is Phoenix trying to stop development of a stadium in Tempe?

We have heard the developer continues to compare the TED project to Chase Field on the west side of the Airport. As is clear in this aerial view, Chase Field is not under Sky Harbor’s flight path and not in the 65-decibel day/night average level (65 DNL) noise area. The proposed TED project is directly under the flight paths of two runways and inside the 65 DNL noise contour.

However, it is important to understand this is yet another distraction from the real issues we are attempting to address with Tempe. A stadium is not a house and this is about houses. If the only project at the TED was the stadium, this would not be happening. This is not about stadiums. This is about houses and specifically, this is about Tempe, breaking a promise, not to build houses in the place where the airport promised to fly the airplanes.


Isn’t this the same argument Sky Harbor used when opposing the proposed Cardinals stadium?

In 2001, the City of Phoenix raised concerns about the potential noise level among other concerns over the proposed Cardinals stadium – because at that time the project would have been in the 70 DNL noise area. However, an even greater issue was the fact that the Federal Aviation Administration declared the proposed stadium a hazard to air navigation. 


Does the IGA between Phoenix and Tempe make an exception for soundproofed apartments in the high noise area under the flight path?

Tempe is obligated in the IGA to “take all actions necessary” to implement land use strategies recommended in the Part 150 noise compatibility plan and to ensure “new development undertaken in connection with the Rio Salado project or in noise sensitive environs [65 DNL] within its jurisdiction will be compatible” with noise levels predicted in the plan. The IGA further required Phoenix to update the Part 150 plan with Tempe and submit it to the FAA. The Part 150 plan specifically recommends against any residential in the 65-decibel day/night level (DNL) noise area. Recently, the FAA has also stated in writing that residential development in this high noise area is incompatible land use.


Did Phoenix previously support a housing development in a high-noise area in Tempe?

We interact with prospective developers all the time when they are considering development near the airport, and we encourage that. We never approve incompatible development, and the airport doesn’t have jurisdictional authority to do that. We do offer ideas on how impacts related to these developments can be reduced. But it is important to understand that these developers ARE NOT party to the intergovernmental agreement between our cities. Tempe, and Tempe alone must ensure they are taking actions that honor their commitments in the agreement.


Since 1999, has Phoenix supported 21 residential projects with 4,800 apartments developed around Tempe Town Lake and west of the airport within the same noise level zone as the Tempe Entertainment District?

No, that is not accurate. The developer continues to use outdated noise contours in an apparent attempt to confuse the public even though Tempe in its own RFP specifically told the developer they must obtain the most current noise contours from Phoenix.

Since 1999, the noise contours around Sky Harbor have become significantly smaller because planes are not as noisy as they once were. The Noise Exposure Maps have been updated twice since 1999, and accepted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  The most recent FAA letter reaffirming the current noise contours is available here.  The airport has not supported Tempe’s actions to develop of houses within the current noise contour, and Phoenix has not taken actions to allow that in land it controls.


Additional Information

We can understand and appreciate the developer’s frustration, but their frustration is misdirected. If they are frustrated, they should be frustrated with Tempe. We thought we had a reasonable compromise with Tempe that would protect the airport, the communities around the airport, and allow currently planned developments, including TED, to proceed. We remain hopeful the Tempe Council will come back to the table and reconsider a path forward that doesn’t involve the courts.