Motel project approval ignored airport safety zone

October 24, 2012

The city of Tehachapi, Calif., should override the approval its planning commission gave to a motel construction project that encroaches a safety zone of the Tehachapi Municipal Airport, AOPA said.

In a letter to Tehachapi City Manager Greg Garrett, AOPA expressed “serious concern and strong opposition” to the approval to build a Motel 6 on the site that is partly located in an area where high-density development is prohibited under the airport's land-use compatibility plan (ALUCP).

Planning commission decisions are subject to appeal to the Tehachapi City Council.

AOPA was informed that the planning commission discussed the project using a county-generated map that is not part of the airport's land-use planning document. But the map “includes a significant disclaimer as to the accuracy and uses of the map data. Instead, the maps included in the ALUCP should be the source used,” wrote Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president of airport advocacy.

Dunn's Oct. 18 letter noted that an existing hotel “in the same immediate area” should not have been approved, “and should not be the basis for approving another apparently non-compliant project.”

AOPA, with approximately 50,000 members in California, opposes development projects in close proximity to public-use, publicly owned airports that could have an adverse impact on airport operations, generate noise complaints, or reduce safety of aircraft operations. The association “expects an airport sponsor to follow all requisite laws regarding land use planning near a publicly owned, public use airport,” Dunn said. “Tehachapi is required to follow the county's Comprehensive Airport Land Use Plan” developed as mandated by California law.

However, “the city's planning commission turned a blind eye on these requirements, and unanimously approved the request for construction” of the motel, he said.

Dunn also requested that the city of Tehachapi conduct an in-depth review of the project request “to ensure that the airport continues to be protected from inappropriate development which is non-compliant with the County of Kern approved Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan.”