Airport hangar plans debated
If you try to please everybody, somebody’s not going to like it.
Just ask David Gotschall, the general manager of the Truckee-Tahoe Airport.
In an effort to more accurately gauge just how much of a demand there is for new hangars, Gotschall has attempted to implement procedures that will change how the hangar waiting list will be managed. Chief among the changes is the enforcement of a pre-existing policy that gives district residents preference on the list.
The Federal Aviation Administration has, however, ruled that granting district residents preference is incompliant with their grant-funding requirements and could result in the loss of millions of dollars to the airport.
In a letter to Gotschall, Tony Garcia, an airports compliance specialist with the FAA, said the airport “is creating dissimilar treatment for the same type of airport user, based solely on where the user lives … the fact that certain users pay local taxes, while others do not, does not justify preferential treatment …”
But Garcia is out of the FAA’s Airports Division Regional Office in Los Angeles, not the San Francisco Airports District Office in Burlingame, Calif. that has direct jurisdiction over the Truckee Tahoe Airport, Gotschall said.
“Why is someone out side of their district making a ruling on this?” Gotschall asked rhetorically on Wednesday.
The Truckee Tahoe Airport District covers 760 square miles, stretching from Cisco Grove to Stateline, and down to the West Shore.
While the current hangar waiting list is over 200 people, some airport watchdogs think that figure is inflated due the high number of people that “pass” every time their turn for a hangar comes up. Those that do pass still maintain their spot on the list rather than going to the bottom, another change Gotschall hopes to make.
The construction of up to 80 new hangars is one of two major projects identified in the airport’s master plan, the other being a new terminal building.
Lynn Larson, a Sierra Meadows resident who ran for the board in Fall 2000 and is currently member of the Airport Noise Advisory Council, said last fall that better management of the existing hangars, including giving preference to local plane owners, would alleviate much of the pent-up demand for new hangars.
As of January, Gotschall has attempted to do just that. And as justification for the change, he cites a pre-existing policy, adopted in 1982, in which district gave residents priority.
“It basically says to get on the hangar wait list you have to be a district resident. But that hasn’t happened [in the past],” Gotschall said. “As of January of this year, I started re-enforcing the policy … Why should [district residents] wait behind people who don’t pay taxes in the district?”
At the heart of the issue is a need to see how much of a demand there really is for new hangars, Gotschall said.
“We are going to run [the airport] as a business and make sound business decisions,” he said. “I don’t want to build anything we don’t need.”
Regardless, local pilot Tom Meadows said the policy is discriminatory, and worse, may cause the district FAA grant funding.
Meadows voiced those concerns at last Thursday’s board meeting before the board went into close session to discuss an appeal of the FAA’s ruling.
Regarding the ruling by Garcia, Gotschall isn’t convinced it’s the end of the road and thinks the airport has a realistic chance of winning an appeal.
“It’s Tony Garcia’s opinion. All it tells me is that in his opinion we aren’t in compliance with FAA grant compliance,” Gotschall said. “I’ve been down this road before, but I gotta fight the fight for the constituents of this district.”
A special board meeting has been set for July 18 at 9a.m., and all hangar tenants and those on the waiting list have been notified.
“We have scheduled it in a hangar, that’s how big this is going to be,” Gotschall said. “I’ve sent out 400 letters.”
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