Residents of Truckee and North Tahoe have met with the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District to iron out problems with the impact of airport noise on nearby neighbors. The issue has been a strongly contested one in the area for two years. That was when the five airport board members were up for election, and three nonpilots concerned with the impact of the airport on the community won a majority of the board's seats.
That board established the Airport Community Advisory Team (ACAT) and tasked it with surveying the public and finding out what its desires were for the airport's future. What came out of that effort, said ACAT co-chair Tom Van Berkem, were 32 proposals for making the airport more homeowner friendly.
The leading one was to make available in-cockpit DVDs, which would show desired approach and departure paths to mitigate noise, for pilots. The second would take years to accomplish, and involves moving the runway 500 feet to the east. Van Berkem said the highest estimate is $500,000, but the community could obtain the funds with only a 5-percent matching contribution.
Interestingly enough, one of the top requests during community surveys was for an airshow to return to Truckee-Tahoe Airport. That is now set to occur next June 23 and 24. There is a possibility of medevac and forestry demonstrations of aviation assets, a move that could better inform the public of the many varied uses of the local airport.
Another proposal, one that could be costly with no chance for federal matching money, was run as a test project last summer. That was to accurately track aircraft using a modified military system that can pinpoint aircraft that create the majority of noise complaints. The airport receives $3 million in taxpayer money that could be used to fund the test, Van Berkem said.
The board was to meet again December 13 to prioritize the 32 findings and develop further action.
A tentative development of 400 homes, called Princeton Ranch, is planned next to Mariposa-Yosemite Airport, just 35 miles from the famous national park. Of those homes, 24 one-half-acre lots are planned directly under the departure path of Runway 8 and the final approach path of Runway 26, said AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Robert L. McHugh. Airport Assistant Manager Mark Steele said those homes are within 300 yards of the runway threshold, and McHugh added that is in violation of the state Division of Aeronautics guidelines, as well as Section 17 of the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the airport.
Steele said he doubts the developer will be successful in asking the city to annex the land, since it will be difficult to provide city water and sewer. The present land, Steele said, would need to be rezoned from the present five to 20 acres per lot to one-quarter-acre lots. Also, the county prohibits structures on a nearby hill from exceeding 4 feet and trees must be kept trimmed so as not to interfere with air traffic. The change, if allowed, would allow whole houses, rather than 4-foot structures.
It also appears the development would encroach on safety zones established for the airport. However, open areas specified in the development could be realigned to avoid infringement on the safety zones. Future noise complaints from new homeowners not familiar with airport operations are a concern as well.
McHugh is working with AOPA California Regional Representative John Pfeifer, and has also begun informing county officials of the requirements for airport safety. It should be noted that the airport has accepted federal funds, which bring obligations to the federal government to continue the airport's operation, although as yet there is no threat of closure of the airport. The airport has 52 based aircraft.
The city of San Diego recently issued a stop-work order to Sunroad Enterprises, the developer of a high-rise building near Montgomery Field that the FAA previously ruled is a hazard to air navigation, for work in the top 17 feet of that building.
AOPA, the association's Airport Support Network volunteer Rick Beach, and Caltrans, Division of Aeronautics, lobbied the city to address the construction project and protect Montgomery Field. The city attorney's office subsequently pressed the city's Department of Land Use and Economic Development to issue a stop-work order, claiming the project violated state law and city ordinances.
It was not immediately clear how Sunroad Enterprises planned to respond, although local pilots report seeing work continue on the building. Caltrans' Chief of Airports Gary Cathey said Sunroad essentially has three options.
"They can appeal the FAA's determination of a hazard to air navigation, alter the building, or apply for a permit from our office," said Cathey. According to Cathey, Caltrans has never received a request for a permit after the FAA has declared a structure to be hazardous to navigable airspace, nor has it issued a permit after construction had already started.
If Sunroad Enterprises ignores the stop-work order and continues to build, Cathey said the California Public Utilities Code allows for sanctions and other legal action.
AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn said, "It's clear the city is doing the right thing by issuing a stop-work order in this case. AOPA fully supports their action."
Caltrans' Division of Aeronautics recently released an updated Airport Land Use Compatibility Planning brochure, designed to help protect all California airports.
The short brochure is an informative publication that supplements the much more comprehensive California Airport Land Use Planning Handbook. Caltrans' Division of Aeronautics has an aggressive compatible land use campaign with laws to back it up, all of which is outlined in the brochure.
Everything from proper and responsible land use planning and aircraft noise issues to the role of various government agencies is included. Although the brochure does an excellent job of detailing the basics of noise issues and outlining the importance of aviation to California, its greatest feature is the short course in land use planning that guides the reader through all the basics.
The brochure is a great way to reach out to airport and local officials in order to educate them on the importance of compatible land use planning with the goal of protecting the state's robust airport infrastructure.
Brochures can be ordered by calling Caltrans directly at 916/654-4959.
The future of Oceanside Municipal Airport improved greatly this past November with the election of two pro-airport candidates to the City Council.
Thanks to AOPA action on the local level, two AOPA-supported candidates were elected to the council, one replacing an airport opponent. That swings the council 3-to-2 in favor of the airport. It was previously 3-to-2 against the airport.
AOPA, in connection with the Oceanside Airport Association, worked to ensure that pro-airport candidates were fully supported through direct mailings to Oceanside residents, and positive and accurate news coverage.
"Oceanside residents and pilots spoke at the polls in November," said AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn, "and they said they feel the airport is an integral part of their community."
Dunn added that the vote virtually guarantees that the new council will not pursue an alternative land-use study for the airport.
AOPA's recent meeting with Oceanside city officials also reinforced the need for the city to comply with its federal grant obligations and keep the airport open. Previously, the City Council has attempted to severely restrict operations at the airport, which would have led to closure. The council's latest attempt was an alternative land-use study that showed the airport property was much more valuable as a shopping center and homes than as an airport.
"This win exemplifies what can happen when local pilots are actively involved with AOPA," said Dunn. "AOPA worked hand in hand with local pilots. The outcome tells the story."
Dunn said AOPA will continue to closely monitor the situation in Oceanside and work with the new City Council to ensure that the airport is developed to its full potential.