Residents fight for airport noise standards
The airport planners for the Truckee Tahoe Airport’s Land Use Compatibility Plan faced tough questions about their lack of actual noise metering in developing the plan’s noise contours, while airport-area residents insisted that flight paths shown on the plan have little correlation to what pilots actually do in the sky, making the draft inaccurate, at Wednesday’s joint workshop.
The Truckee Town Council, Airport Land Use Commission and Truckee Tahoe Airport board of directors met to discuss the draft Land Use Compatibility Plan often referred to as the CLUP. The CLUP is meant to connect the Airport Master Plan and surrounding government’s general plans by setting standards for new development around the airport. Noise and safety zones closest to the airport are highly restrictive, effectively excluding new development, while more distant zones ban structures such as new three-story buildings, hospitals, schools and other uses that group a large number of people in one location. Truckee’s General Plan must comply with the CLUP, as mandated by state law.
About 40 residents attended the meeting.
Truckee residents who spoke at the meeting expressed concern over the direction of the airport and noise impacts that they say affect their quality of life. Truckee Tahoe Airport currently runs about 48,000 operations per year (an operation means a takeoff or a landing). The 20-year projection of the CLUP puts airport operations at 120,000 per year. The airport also has, in it master plan, the leeway to build a third runway for planes and a turf runway for gliders.
“In the long term I think that people that come up here to get away from it all might find another place to spend their tax dollars,” said Mary Hetherington. “I think that what our community has to sell is the idea of quality of life.”
Airport planners admitted that no new noise data was collected to create the noise contours, but that the plan relied on past metering. Several residents advocated that a tower be built to control flight paths and make the Federal Aviation Administration accessible to the public.
“I believe the only way that we can have modeled flight tracks to work is to have a tower,” said Martis Valley Estates resident Dennis Dickinson. “I just can’t understand how this plan got drawn without a real look at where airplanes are flying.
“If the pilots don’t follow the program then this plan is flawed …the figures must be accurate and precise for this plan to work,” Dickinson said.
Andrew Terry estimated that airport noise and safety concerns could yield a $210 million depreciation in collective property sales per year in the area. This depreciation not only affects homeowners, but can also lower property tax revenue and local real estate agents’ commission, said Terry.
“I think that we should take airport noise extremely seriously,” Terry said. “I believe that managing noise is an appropriate option; I don’t believe shutting the airport is an appropriate option.”
Robert Todd, owner of flight school Todd Aero at the airport, reminded the audience that airplanes are not the source of all noise in Truckee, and urged residents to balance their noise concerns with the benefits of the airport.
“We can’t get rid of trains and we can’t get rid of highways,” said Todd. “The whole town is bursting at the seams … the airport is bursting at the seams. Living near an airport is one of those give and take things.”
Developers and neighboring landowners voiced concern about the CLUP’s restrictions on their development plans. The Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District said limits on the “commercial triangle” site tentatively donated by East West Partners would preclude the district’s hopes of building a community center on the site. The “triangle” in the draft, is restricted to a gathering place of 300 people or less. Recreation and Park would like that changed to allow up to 1,000 people to meet in one building.
Jim Porter, a lawyer representing Holliday Development, asked the commission to consider a slight realignment of the airport influence zone boundary, so that the downtown railyard site could house a movie theater and other mixed uses.
The Truckee Tahoe Sanitation Agency also expressed concerns that the addition of a second major runway would cause a mandatory safety area to encroach on land owned by the agency.
Truckee town council members supported doing actual noise monitoring to make the noise contours more accurate. But the airport planners said that could take up to two years and double the projected budget of the plan.
“I am most concerned about our ability to use the mill site appropriately and to use the commercial triangle appropriately,” said councilmember Craig Threshie, who called the draft’s restrictions “totally unacceptable” – to resounding applause from many in the audience.
Mayor Susman added, “If these contours are correct we need to validate them. If they are not correct we need to change them.”
The Airport Land Use Commission’s next scheduled meeting is on April 7, although that date may be altered because of Easter vacation.