Airport committee disbands |

Airport committee disbands

by Christy Chalmers

The word is in and the action is official: The weight restrictions at Minden-Tahoe Airport aren’t changing, and the committee that was reviewing the matter is out of business.

The committee was formed in January to review the relationship between airplane noise and weight. The group disbanded Monday night after affirming a decision made in March to recommend leaving the weight ordinance alone until a long-range plan and vision for the airport are complete.

The county has a voter-imposed weight limit of 50,000 pounds for multi-wheeled planes, with lower limits for other types of aircraft. The intent of the rule was to avoid noise, pollution and other impacts associated with larger planes.

The airport doesn’t get general fund money, and administrators have been told to enhance the facility’s self-sufficiency when possible. One way to do that is by collecting the fees and taxes generated by planes that are based at the airport, or by attracting more aviation-related business.

The airport advisory board members suggested a review because larger planes aren’t necessarily the noisiest, and aviation promoters thought the ordinance may be costing Minden-Tahoe business from larger planes that don’t bring the undesired impacts.

The discussion is now on hold for the next several months.

“It’s going to take a while,” said Douglas County Operations Manager Jim Braswell, who oversees Minden-Tahoe Airport. “The best thing for the staff is to do a vision plan and get community input, and the only way to do that is to go out to the different places and do it like they have with the land issues.”

Braswell is referring to the strategy used by open space preservation advocates, who have held a series of workshops throughout the past year to query residents about their opinions on the value of open land and whether they would pay to preserve it.

Public opinion on the airport is mixed. While airport administrators and businesses welcomed a review of the voter-imposed weight ordinance, many residents of the Johnson Lane and Winhaven areas worried about increased traffic and a threat to their safety.

Some think changes could mean Minden-Tahoe would become a major commercial hub like Reno-Tahoe International.

Braswell agrees a long-range plan, and the accompanying public reviews and forums, could address the concerns of both sides. The airport has a five-year plan in place and a master plan is slated. He thinks the long-range and vision plan can be incorporated into the master plan.

“We might be able to kill two birds with one stone with a few additional dollars,” he noted. “I think it will take some time because they (concerned residents) need to be heard. They need to give the input and it needs to be used.”

Johnson Lane resident Linda Garmong, who has voiced concerns about increased traffic and larger planes at Minden-Tahoe, says she is looking forward to participating in the planning process.

She said she and her husband already have drafted a four-page plan they think covers many of the issues.

“I’m hopeful we could hash something out,” she said.

The long-range plan could also cover a protective zone that was proposed earlier in the year, then shelved until impacts on neighboring property owners are known. The suggested “airport protective overlay” was intended to keep incompatible land uses at bay, but neighbors wanted more details on whether their property rights would be restricted.

Braswell said he’s waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to review a possible change in the proposal before meeting with affected landowners.

“The purpose is to protect the land around the airport and community itself without clouding any property titles,” said Braswell. “There are ways to do that, and I’m hoping we’ve found one.”

But meetings with landowners could still be two or three months off, he said.