Planners delay airport policy decision |

Planners delay airport policy decision

by Christy Chalmers

A decision on a policy that could restrict residential growth around Minden-Tahoe Airport was tabled Tuesday after neighboring landowners said they hadn’t been given enough information.

The Douglas County Planning Commission was scheduled to debate a master plan amendment and other policies that would allow creation of a protective zone covering a one-mile radius around the airport. The zone would reach north to the Johnson Lane area, west to Highway 395 and south nearly to Minden.

The airport’s advisory committee recommended implementing the zone in 1999, partly due to concerns by the Federal Aviation Administration, which wants assurance that the airport will be surrounded by compatible land uses. The zone could help warn prospective buyers of the airport’s presence and protect the airport from complaints by future neighbors who might object to its operations.

Existing land uses near the airport include agriculture, light industry and forest and range, but there is a receiving area northeast of the facility that could eventually hold up to 1,000 houses.

Assistant Planner Lee Plemel said the zone, if implemented, wouldn’t prohibit the construction of houses under existing zoning regulations, but “it provides guidelines to locate the residential development as far away from the airport as possible.”

He compared it to the county’s “right to farm” ordinance, which insulates ranchers from restrictions their newer neighbors might seek.

Neighboring property owners and their lawyers said they want more information on how the zone would impact their property values.

“We feel it’s unfair that a few individual property owners have to have burdens placed on their backs for the protection of the airport,” said rancher Andy Aldax, whose property is west of the airport.

Attorney Bill Shaw, representing several other property owners, said the proposed policy would add another layer of bureaucracy without necessarily addressing the underlying concern.

“If you want to tell people there’s an airport there, but they can still do what they want, then tell them,” he said. “I’m not getting where this gets you.”

Chris MacKenzie, an attorney for the Carson Valley Ranch, said a protective zone would mean another barrier for residential development on the ranch. Part of the property has been identified as a receiving area, which means development rights from other areas could be exercised there, and part of the receiving area would fall in the proposed protective zone.

“We consider this a decrease in value that possibly constitutes a taking,” said MacKenzie. “This is an additional restriction that makes (development) that much more difficult, should the time come.”

The planning commission agreed to postpone a decision until the property owners can get more information on the impacts of a protective zone. The board’s attorney said the matter could be discussed again in March.