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Island County > PlanningOld > OLFCoupeville_APZ

Changes Under Consideration for OLF and Frequently Asked Questions

Check back here for updates as more information becomes available!

What is the Outlying Field Coupeville (OLF)?

OLF Coupeville, was commissioned for use by the US Navy in 1943 to support practice approaches/landings and emergency landings. It currently supports day and night Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) operations by the US Navy's EA-18G Growler.

What’s happening at the OLF? What is the Navy considering in the future?

On September 5, 2013, the Navy announced the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the environmental effects associated with the potential introduction of two additional Growler expeditionary squadrons (13 aircraft). That EIS was then revised to include potential acquisition of additional Growler aircraft. The final EIS evaluated multiple alternatives with varying impacts to the following:
1. Number of aircraft assigned per squadron;
2. Number of expeditionary squadrons;
3. Number of personnel; and
4. Distribution of aircraft operations at Ault Field and OLF Coupeville.
In the March 12, 2019, Record of Decision, the Navy selected alternative 2A (the preferred alternative):
“The U.S. Department of the Navy (Navy), after carefully weighing the strategic, operational, and environmental consequences of the proposed action, announces its decision to implement Alternative 2A (the Preferred Alternative), which adds 36 EA-18G operational aircraft at Naval Air Station (NAS)Whidbey Island… increases airfield operations at both Ault Field and Outlying Landing Field (OLF) Coupeville, and changes the distribution of field carrier landing practice (FCLP) to 20 percent occurring at Ault Field and 80 percent occurring at OLF Coupeville.”

What happens next?

The Navy will conduct an Air Installation Compatibility Use Zone (AICUZ) study to provide official recommendations for land-use. The AICUZ study is part of the AICUZ Program which is a tool to promote compatible development near aircraft operations and to safeguard operational capabilities. Additionally, the program seeks to reduce noise impacts and engage the public in promoting compatible development. The AICUZ study is an advisory document that the Navy encourages local jurisdictions to utilize in their land use regulations. Island County will consider the AICUZ recommendations in their land use regulatory discussions in accordance with the following tentative timeline. More information about the AICUZ program can be found at the following link:

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How does an APZ affect land use regulations?

The DOD provides APZs as a planning tool to assist local governments with land use planning and future community development. While the possibilities of an aircraft mishap are remote, the AICUZ Program recommends that land uses that promote high concentrations of people be avoided in the APZs. APZs are spatial planning areas that come with compatible land use recommendations, it is up to the local government to choose to restrict land use in the APZ.

Within any jurisdiction, only the local government has authority to regulate land use and, therefore, is responsible for adopting and implementing the appropriate control measures that pertain to zoning ordinances, general plans, and building codes. Partnership and coordination with the Navy ensures that incompatible land uses are minimized within noise zones and APZs.

The land use compatibility analysis section of an AICUZ study examines existing land uses within the AICUZ footprint and determines the level of compatibility with military air operations. Existing land uses are identified through data acquired from local or state governments and supplemented with aerial photography interpretation and ground verification. Long range plans for development within the AICUZ footprint are reviewed, as are local zoning ordinances and zoning maps to determine compatibility of current and future land uses, density, and intensity of development (e.g. building heights, dwelling units per acre, floor-to-area ratios). The AICUZ study will include maps and descriptions of compatibility concerns as well as recommendations for compatible land use.

AICUZ Program’s compatibility guidelines encourage noise-sensitive and uses (e.g., houses and churches) to be placed outside high-noise zones and discourages people-intensive uses (e.g., apartments and theaters) in APZs. Per OPNAVINST 11010.36C, the Navy recommends low-density land uses in an APZ.  Nevertheless, there are certain scenarios when single family detached units are considered compatible within APZ-II specifically: when a maximum density of one to two dwellings per acre or when clustered housing does not exceed 20 percent of the total acreage of Planned Unit Developments (PUDs), thus resulting in large open areas. The table below provides a list of common land use classifications and their generalized compatibility recommendations within AICUZ noise zones and APZs. Land use classifications in this table are generalized and do not represent the local communities’ land use designations.
Land Use Classifications and Compatibility Guidelines Table.jpg

How does an APZ affect existing uses?

If the County chooses to make adjustments to local land use regulations as recommended by the Navy’s AICUZ study, existing uses/development that no longer comply with the new standards will be able to continue operating. Per ICC 17.03.230 – Existing Uses, the following standards would apply:
  • A legally established lot, use or structure that does not conform to the requirements of this chapter shall be deemed a legal existing lot, use or structure and may be continued, transferred or conveyed and/or used as if conforming.
  • Normal maintenance and incidental repair of existing legal structures shall be permitted, provided that it complies with all sections of this chapter and other pertinent chapters of the Island County Code.
  • When damaged by fire, flood, earthquake or other disaster, the building or structure as original ly located may be rebuilt so long as the use of the property is not intensified thereby and rebuilding starts within three (3) years after the destruction.
  • A legally established existing use or structure may be expanded, enlarged, or extended (including extension of hours of operation) provided the expansion conforms to land use standards set forth in section 17.03.180 for parking and setbacks; the height restrictions of the applicable zone; and the applicable critical area standards of chapter 17.02B, provided that this subsection does not apply to airports that are not zoned AP, gun clubs and shooting ranges or junk and/or salvage yards.

How does an APZ affect future development?

If the County chooses to make adjustments to local land use regulations as recommended by the Navy’s AICUZ study, future development would have to conform to the new standards. Since, the area located under the proposed APZ is in the rural area, the County does not expect having to make dramatic changes to land use regulations governing the area. For example, multi-family residential, and commercial retail are not currently permitted in that area. Under the preferred alternative APZ boundary, the predominant zoning districts are Rural, Rural Agriculture and Commercial Agriculture. The County will have to discuss whether to restrict new development of uses that involve large gatherings of people, such as community halls, or country inns. Existing, neighborhoods that have already been developed at higher densities than what is recommended in the study would be considered existing uses.

Will the APZ for OLF be similar to the one around Ault Field?

A large portion of the APZ II around Ault Field falls over the City of Oak Harbor’s Urban Growth Area. In those areas, the County was able to work with the City to establish uses that were compatible with the APZ and that reflected the existing and anticipated uses of that area which were mostly industrial, highway service center, and planned industrial park. Where the APZ falls in the rural areas outside of the Oak Harbor Urban Growth Area, the standards may look similar to what will be proposed for the surrounding areas of OLF. In the process of determining compatible land uses, special consideration may be given to some of the essential economic drivers of rural Central Whidbey.

How can I get involved?

The AICUZ study is an internal Navy process, though there may be community meetings to announce the results of the study. Once
Island County is ready to begin land use discussions and consider adjusting land use regulations, the public will have many
opportunities to comment and weigh-in throughout the process. Any changes to Island County’s land use regulations at a minimum
generally involves:
  • Multiple Board and Planning Commission work sessions
  • State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination and 14 day comment period
  • Department of Commerce 60 day review and comment period
  • Planning Commission Public Hearing and recommendation
  • Possible additional, Board of Island County Commissioners Public Hearing
To receive notices about upcoming meetings and input opportunities you can sign up for Planning & Community Development’s email subscription list using the link below.

Where can I find more information?

The following links provide more information on the Navy’s EIS, APZs, AICUZ Studies, and OLF Coupeville.


Check back here for updates as more
information becomes available!

Last Updated:  10/25/18

​What is an Accident Potential Zone?

In an effort to assist local government in communities which house military air installations, the Department of Defense provides information related to flight paths and tracks. Within those flight paths, the military maps areas that are considered Accident Potential Zones (APZ). An APZ is an area with a higher potential for aircraft mishaps. Once an APZ is mapped, the municipal government can use this information to inform and update their land use standards.

Origin of the APZ

Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, in an attempt to understand risk associated with military air operations, the Department of Defense conducted a study of historical flight data. Using the analysis of this data, specific flight tracks and standards for Accident Potential Zones were developed. Today, the Air Installations Compatible Use Zones Program Study (AICUZ) is an internal study used by the military to update and communicate the potential impacts based on a current or proposed use.

APZ Standards

A clear zone is an exsiting requirement on all active airfields. APZ I and II areas are not mandated by the DOD to the local government. Information about the flight path, air traffic volume, and potential aircraft mishaps are provided to the local government by the military. It is at the discresion of the local government whether or not this information will inform changes to local land use standards.

Clear Zone

Based on this analysis, the DOD has determined the majority of aircraft mishaps occur on or near the airfield. A clear zone denotes an area of the highest potential for an aircraft mishap. This area extends 3,000 feet beyond each end of the runway, and is an exsiting requirement on all active runways.
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An area along the designated flight path that extends 5000 feet beyond the designated Clear Zone. APZ I has been identified as an area with a measurable potential for aircraft mishaps relative to the Clear Zone.
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An area that extends 7,000 feet beyond APZ I. This designation defines an area of lower probability for aircraft mishaps, and is required anytime an APZ I area is present.
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