Tehachapi City Council Ignores Hotel in Airport Safety Zone Issue

Tehachapi Airport2Tehachapi Airport Tehachapi City Council Denies Hotel Appeal – The Tehachapi City Council held a public hearing denying local airport hanger owner Kenneth Hetge his appeal to halt the construction of a new hotel in Capital Hills. The council made its decision at its Feb. 19 meeting despite hearing from nearly a dozen pilots who supported Hetge’s appeal, citing various incidents of aircraft crashes in other locations and other airport landing and take off related issues.

“I’ve been a pilot all my life,” said George Sandy, “I commend Mr. Hetge for doing his homework. He’s a staunch supporter of aviation.”

Hetge’s latest appeal is a duplicate of the one he filed on Oct. 22 following the initial approval of a Motel 6 on Oct. 8. But the appeal was moot after the property owner withdrew the project.

Since then, motel developer Terry Delamater received approval from the Commission to build a new hotel called the Tehachapi Inn on the property.

The Planning Commission approved the revised version of a 72-room non-franchise hotel at its Jan. 14 meeting. As proposed, the motel would be a three-story, 25,319 square foot structure located north and adjacent to Capital Hills Parkway, east of Magellan Drive and west of Challenger Drive.

Hetge and others believe this area is too close to the protected flight path of aircraft arriving at and departing from the Tehachapi Airport.

The basis of Hetge’s appeal is what he believes is a lack of compliance with the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan and guidelines set forth by the state of California Department of Transportation, Division of Aeronautics.

However, during the last Tuesday’s hearing, Community Development Director David James presented a staff report pointing out the location of the proposed hotel was not only found to be compatible and consistent with the Airport Compatibility Plan, but also the underlying zoning designation, the general plan, the Capital Hills Specific Plan, the architectural design criteria, and the big box ordinance.

Hetge still disagrees, pointing out that one of the potential risks involved with locating the hotel at the proposed location involves the what is known as the “notch” — an area just north of a straight out departure from the airport that pilots tend to fly over if headed toward the San Joaquin Valley.

“The hotel is in an area that is over flown at low altitudes by departing aircraft and is in a prime location for pilots needing an emergency landing site,” Hetge said.

He then urged the city and its council to force the creation of a land use type commission to oversee the successful growth of the community in companionship with the airport.

But airport manager Tom Glasgow and city attorney Tom Schroeter both agreed that the city was not required to have such a commission.

Following a brief statement by council member Kim Nixon who said that while she appreciated Hetge’s opinion she did not want to get caught up in scare tactics, the council voted 4-0 to adopt a resolution denying the appeal.

“We rely on a document developed by professionals, written and devised by professionals and includes the California airport planning guidelines,” said Mayor Phil Smith. “The FAA has said its okay to put it there, Caltrans has said its okay to put it there, so I am inclined to say I am going with the specialists at the FAA and the people that created the document.”

And although for now it appears the fight is over. Hetge doesn’t seem ready to toss in the towel just yet.

“I think there been a huge injustice done to the community by misguided information provided by city staff that has swayed and convinced the City Council to make an appropriate decision,” he said. “It ain’t over till its over.”