Truckee Airport

Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Don’t blame the airport
By Janna S. Caughron
The Truckee (CA) Sierra Sun

Robie Wilson Litchfield’s letter of last week (“Airport planning done in vacuum” Sierra Sun Oct. 1) pushed my launch button. Ms. Litchfield, a member of the Town of Truckee Planning Commission, states that the “airport’s master plan … shortchanged the environmental review process and refused to consider the impact of increased aircraft operations on the communities below the flight path.” This is baloney. The environmental documents the airport’s consultant, Coffman and Associates, prepared for the airport’s master plan are the same documents required of developers like East West, Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency, Truckee Donner Public Utility District, and even the town itself. Coffman used an extremely large number of operations by the end of the 20-year planning horizon (2020) – more than double the current level of operations. The noise contour maps show the expected noise impacts on the surrounding area. If Ms. Litchfield does not like the current level of airport operations, does it not follow that she will be unhappy with development that attracts aircraft? Exactly the type of development she approved with Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing.

Being in the unique position of being a “tree hugger,” a Prosser resident, and employed at the airport, in my testimony at town council meetings and at various planning commission meetings, I would bring up the fact that PC-2 and Pine Forest were under the main departure route of the airport. Not a single council member nor planning commissioner ever indicated that he or she thought that was a significant piece of information.

Where was Ms. Litchfield back during the town’s original General Plan process? My neighbors and I all gave testimony against the Hopkins PC-2 proposal (now Gray’s Crossing). Were we listened too? Emphatically not!

The council only listened to the developers spin the tales of more property taxes and more sales taxes. We were and still are extremely concerned that no provisions have been put into place in the development agreements to protect the Prosser area wells. Now that the planning commission and town council have approved not just one, but two golf courses out here, Prosser residents are even more concerned. (How come a ruckus has not been raised over the fact that Old Greenwood is currently pumping 700,000 gallons a day of our pristine drinking water for its golf course, and TDPUD was not able to maintain minimum fire flow for existing development in August and September?) Can’t blame that on the airport.

Ms. Litchfield states the airport’s plan “was created in a vacuum.” I submit that all of the development the planning commission and town council have approved over the last eight years has been approved in the vacuum of pretending the airport did not exist. At no time in the town’s short history has any project developer of any project prepared, as part of an EIR, or California Environmental Quality Act study, or negative declaration a traffic study which included a forecast of what effect the proposed project would have upon air traffic into and out of the Truckee airport.

Even the school district chose to ignore the airport’s influence area when it built the new middle school right at the edge of the outer safety zone.

The town’s “smart accommodating growth” planning has destroyed the rural small town values, not the airport. Approving the large development projects for second homeowners, characterizing them as “in-fill,” and not having the infrastructure to accommodate all of the increased demand for water and roads is what is killing the small-town charm of the town of Truckee.

Unfortunately with all of the approved high-end development that has been built in the area (Tonopalo, the Resort at Squaw Creek, Intrawest, Lahontan, Northstar, Old Greenwood, and Pine Forest), comes more cars, trucks and aircraft. People who can afford to pay cash for their fifth million-dollar-plus home, don’t drive their Hummers here! If you had the skill or wherewithal to fly to and from the Bay Area to your second home in Truckee in an hour or less, wouldn’t you? It now takes over four hours to get just to the North Bay by car on any day of the week.

There are too many vehicles on the roads, so thank goodness some people can fly here, and not impact I-80 traffic for the rest of us.

Ms. Litchfield, don’t go blaming the airport for the unintended consequences of the decisions made by you and your predecessors.

Janna S. Caughron is a Truckee resident, certified public accountant and the financial controller for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District.