A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman confirmed Monday that the agency doesn't recognize Douglas County's weight ordinance.
"The county can't restrict the weight of aircraft unless the weight is harming the pavement," FAA Public Affairs Officer Ian Gregor said. "There's no indication that is the case at Minden-Tahoe. The airport cannot impose a weight limit unless there is an issue with pavement strength."
However, the Carson Valley Vanguard Coalition contends a 2002 weight study commissioned by the Nevada Department of Transportation on which the FAA is basing its decision is flawed.
Vanguard Coalition member Jennifer Ware said a review of the weight study by professional engineer Wayne Ferree has revealed the weight-bearing capacity is 50,000 pounds, the same as the ordinance.
"There has been a tremendous amount of public outcry and clamor for protection, and there is clearly a lack of trust with county staff over the Airport Master Plan update," Ware said. "Then we see this move eliminating the only protection we have, taking place behind the backs of the commissioners and the public."
Flying Start Aero owner John B. Brown confirmed he was the author of letters to the FAA and the county seeking the removal of a note from a federal database that mentioned the weight ordinance.
Brown said he wrote the letter on behalf of the Minden-Tahoe Airport Business Owners Association.
On Monday he said he had nothing to hide and was actively working to get notes regarding the single-wheel weight limit of 30,000 pounds and dual-wheel weight limit of 50,000 pounds approved by voters in 1992 removed from the Airport Facility Directory.
"This information is inaccurate, misleading and unfairly restrictive," he said in a letter to Assistant County Manager Michael Brown.
It is the business owner's contention that when the county accepted $18 million in grants from the federal government that it lost the right to enforce the weight ordinance.
Brown said the owners feel the county hired competent management but that commissioners don't listen to those people.
"The residents are being misled into thinking they control the airport," he said. " I don't blame them for being frustrated."
He pointed out that the airport has been self-sustaining for several years, adding up to $200,000 a year to county coffers.
"We should be so lucky to get more jet traffic," he said.
Brown said he felt most county residents aren't worried about the airport.
"About 10 percent of the people hate this airport and about 10 percent love this airport and want to see it prosper," he said. "The other 80 percent don't give a hoot. Shame on those of us who love the airport for only deciding to pursue this in the last year."
He said taking federal money also made it difficult to impossible to close the airport.
"The first thing that would happen is that the FAA would ask for its $18 million back," he said. "And we are not going to sit back and let our businesses bet taken away without a fight. We know the financial situation the county is in now and that would take a whole lot more. It could bankrupt the county."