Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Airpark’s permit appears to be safe for now
The Antelope Valley (CA) Press

AGUA DULCE – The dispute over operations at Agua Dulce Airpark started with disgruntled community residents and has expanded to include county planning commissioners, regional pilots, the state Division of Aeronautics and the Federal Aviation Administration. The airpark’s special-use permit, at one point in danger of being revoked by the county’s Regional Planning Commission, now appears safe.

Commissioners last week voted against revocation and in favor of placing further conditions on airpark operators; those conditions are being drawn up by planning department staff members.

“The conditions would address non-airpark-related activities such as special events,” said Sam Dea, the county planner assigned to the project. “One of the instructions was to look into conditions relating to the filming aspect.”

Filming at the airport has sparked complaints among some nearby residents, especially night filming, which sometimes involves bright lights shining into neighbors’ homes. Other residents have complained about acrobatic flying, low-level flying above their homes and horses, and noise.

The FAA sent a letter this month to Los Angeles County attorneys stating that any limitations by the county on the types and number of planes using the small private airport likely wouldn’t be legal because the federal agency has authority over the nation’s airspace.

After working for months on a proposal to change the airpark from a public facility to a private special-use airport, that idea is off the table, owner Barry Kirshner said. A majority of the five-member planning commission made clear they would not support restricting the airport to members only, and the state Division of Aeronautics stated the change would set a bad precedent as small airports nationwide close in significant numbers.

“It would be difficult for us to impose a condition like that (conversion to restricted-use) at this time, with the FAA letter,” Dea said.

Instead, Kirshner said in a letter to the community that he is offering to limit traffic at the airpark by imposing landing fees and raising the price of fuel to the going market rate.

“These more proven and reasonable measures . would be far easier to implement and enforce, and would allow the airport to maintain its current public-use status while (ensuring) that its itinerant air traffic and airplane noise impacts are lessened and better controlled,” Kirshner said in the letter.

The airpark also is proposing controls on filming to decrease impacts on the community while maintaining an important source of income.

“The filming is an issue; it’s a recurring theme,” said Aaron Clark, an airpark consultant.

“We’re saying, let’s not get rid of it, let’s fix it. The effect of prohibiting it outright would cut off a very liked and utilized location for filming crews, as it’s a very unique setting.

“It’s important we do a better job of fixing the filming impacts, like lights at night, better noticing of the community and controlling certain types of filming by aircraft that have been troublesome to some residents,” he said.

After receiving complaints from nearby residents, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich last year instructed the planning commission to consider revoking or modifying the airpark’s permit.