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Town, airport forge agreement

ALEX FREEMON, Sierra Sun

Truckee Town Council approved Aug. 2 an agreement with the Truckee-Tahoe Airport District in which the two groups agreed to cooperate on a variety of issues where their authority overlaps.

“This agreement will help avoid any problems between the town and the airport district,” said Ken Foster, president of the airport’s board of directors. “It will provide the foundation for the district and town to move forward with any planning taking place on or around the airport,” he added.

The principal issue is how to incorporate airport safety rules into building requirements for surrounding residential areas. Issues range from building type to noise abatement, which could impact property values.

“The issue is really about land use planning, which belongs with the town and not with the airport,” Foster said.

“The agreement recognizes that we all have to work together so health and safety will be considered,” he added.

The agreement was inspired by increased development going on around the airport, and it has been under consideration for about a month, according to Foster.

Detailed specifications for building and other safety standards for development near the airport are are not listed in the agreement, but in a Certified Land Use Plan.

Foster said that the present plan is quickly becoming outdated and its restrictions, drafted 20 years, ago are obstructing local developers.

Drafting a new version is the responsibility of the Foothill Airport Land Use Commission, an association of neighboring counties that address airport land use issues in the Sierra. A recent commission meeting postponed discussion of the land use plan indefinitely, and Foster expects that the commission will revisit the issue again early next year.

In the meantime, the agreement with Town Council also allows the airport to go ahead with its own internal improvement plans without requiring Truckee’s stamp of approval.

The projects include acquiring 28 acres on the airport’s southwestern corner which the board wants to appropriate for new hangars. The property now belongs to the Joerger family and currently is slated to be part of Planned Community-3.

The board proposes seven rows of 20 hangars to be built one row at a time to accommodate airplane owners, some of whom have been waiting for a hangar for three years. Foster said that the waiting list has been this crowded for 10 years.

“This is long-term stuff for us,” said Foster, who went on to describe more immediate plans, including a new access road to accommodate the proposed Highway 267 bypass that will be the airport’s new entrance; repaving Airport Road; adding parking spaces, and acquiring a new fuel truck. The district also wants a new terminal building at the end of the new access road.

The projects will be funded by the airport’s annual budget of about $3 million, of which two-thirds is derived from Placer County and one-third from Nevada County tax revenues as well as hangar rent and fuel sales. Other projects are funded almost exclusively from federal grants through the FAA, which usually pays 90 percent of safety improvement costs.

The importance of the airport to Truckee’s transportation network is growing. “Both counties feel that the airport services are a very necessary part of their operations and the continued growth of the area,” said Foster. He said that the board has commissioned a study to determine the impact of the airport on the community’s fiscal health.

Foster said that the airport is increasingly important to what he calls the “higher-end flyer, who is drawn to Lahontan, Northstar-at-Tahoe and the Resort at Squaw Creek.”

“Higher-end users also draw more concern from neighbors over their noise,” Foster added, explaining that the jets that increasingly use the airport are particularly loud and that noise complaints from townspeople and airport neighbors are also on the rise. He adds that the airport’s revenues from fuel sales, and especially jet fuel, are also rising.

Interim airport general manager Phred Stoner reported that there were 26 noise complaints about the airport between June 22 and July 27. The board created a noise committee to determine where and when the noise is loudest and wants to take preventive action rather than reprimand individual pilots.

“Neighbors feel that the overhead traffic is louder and that planes are flying lower and more frequently and that there is nothing they can do about it,” said Stoner.

Board member Bob Marshall confirms that noise abatement is a particularly troublesome problem because while Truckee residents are fond of the town’s airport, they are prone to complain about the noise it generates.

Stoner proposed that “the goal ought to be to at least to let pilots know when they have been the subject of a noise complaint. We want to keep this information as up front as possible.”

The airport is now in the process of hiring a new general manager by the end of the year to replace Stoner, who stepped in to supervise airport operations from his normal post of maintenance supervisor.


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