Airport board elections may experience turbulence
Three Truckee Tahoe Airport District board seats will come to a vote in November in what may become one of the most contested airport board elections in years.Board President Ken Foster, Vice President Constance Stevens, and Don Starbard are all ending their four-year terms, which leaves a majority of the five-member board up for election. Foster and Stevens say that they plan to seek re-election, while Starbard said he will wait to see who the candidates are before making his decision.Stevens drew comparisons between the upcoming contest and her first election in 2000, which was hotly contested. Foster agreed that the November campaign could become “lively.”Airport noise, jet traffic and land use surrounding the airport are sure to be the dominant campaign issues. The airport, much like the surrounding region, is struggling with growth issues.Fast-paced development surrounding the airport and a 20-year projection of 120,000 yearly aircraft operations by an airport consultant have Truckee’s draft General Plan and the draft Truckee Tahoe Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (CLUP) at loggerheads on some land-use issues. The airport board has been the recipient of much of the attention surrounding the CLUP, even though the Foothill Area Land Use Commission is the entity in charge of the compatibility plan. The discussions about how the airport handles this growth and compatibility issues with development in the region are sure to carry over to the election, Stevens said. “When we look at the growth of Truckee, we see where the growth of the airport is going to go,” said Stevens, emphasizing that surrounding development is largely responsible for increased airport activity.But it is not only growth in Truckee that is feeding the recent spike in jet traffic at the airport. Placer County projects, such as Hopkins Ranch, Eaglewood and Siller Ranch are projected to add to the burgeoning second-homeowner population of places like Lahontan and Old Greenwood which could lead to increased private jet traffic.The newly-formed Community Airport Restoration Effort (CARE) appears to be the new player in the election. Its members, who are also some of the most familiar faces at the airport board meetings, are focused on reducing noise and encouraging business and commercial jet traffic to use Reno Tahoe International Airport rather than Truckee. CARE members plan to either field or endorse candidates for the election.”We’re actively looking for candidates,” said CARE Treasurer Kathleen Eagan. “We’re looking for candidates that we can support.”Eagan said that part of the mission of CARE during this election is to “begin to get fresh perspectives and new perspectives in before it is too late.”The long-term viability of the airport is an important goal for CARE, said Eagan, and candidates that bring a new perspective on how the community and the airport can function together could help the airport avoid a community backlash down the road.Foster said that the board has a lot more work to do, and possibly some of its toughest choices on noise and aircraft operations are still ahead. “I think that we have done all of the easy stuff and now it is time to do the hard stuff,” said Foster. “There is no magic bullet. It’s a lot of hard work.”A decision between candidates that support CARE’s philosophy and incumbent board members may dictate the direction of the entire airport board. Three CARE candidates elected to the seats would be enough to sway the airport’s stance on important issues, noted Stevens. “In my opinion they are not looking out for the best interests of the district,” said Stevens of CARE. “They are angry about noise and they think things are not moving fast enough.”Stevens said the election of three CARE supporters to the board could be disastrous, leading to complete control of board decisions on every issue.”I shiver at the possibilities of what could happen to this district,” said Stevens.Foster and Stevens laid out their ideas that will likely be the foundation of their campaign for re-election. Stevens said that she supports opening a library and a museum at the airport, and would like to see noise monitoring devices on and off of airport property to accurately gauge noise levels.Foster highlighted the success of noise abatement procedures that he helped create, and said that he will not support the construction of a new runway, a new terminal or a de-icing facility.