Saturday, October 23, 2004
Fire chief ends debate over hangars at Stockton airport
By Les Mahler
The Lodi (CA) News-Sentinel
The battle over hangar space at the Stockton Metropolitan Airport appears to have come to an end after the Montezuma Fire District fire chief laid down the law. Under the California fire code, only airplanes and airplane-related parts can be stored in airplane hangars, said Ed Martel, Montezuma’s fire chief. Martel made his ruling earlier this month during a meeting of the airport’s advisory board.
The Montezuma Fire District has jurisdiction over the Stockton airport.
Airport director Barry Rondinella has until the end of the year to tell hangar occupants to stop using them as storage space for vehicles, furniture or boats, Martel said.
The fight over hangar space at the county-run airport started earlier this year when local airplane owners discovered that about 19 hangars were being used to store cars, boats and other property. The airplane owners were upset because not only where they on a waiting list for the valuable spaces but also because they often had to store their airplanes outside the county, some as far as away as Lincoln, just north of Sacramento.
Rondinella said the practice of renting out hangars for storage started before he became director in 2001. And while he immediately ended the practice, he said he was going to let hangar users stay for a while longer.
The ruling by Martel didn’t set well with Wayne Adams, a 63-year-old Tiki Lagoon resident who rents a hangar to store his street rod, furniture and a few other things.
While Adams said he would move his belongings from the hangar, he’s waiting for an eviction notice from Rondinella.<>P”I haven’t heard from the airport,” Adams said when told of Martel’s ruling.
Adams said he’s storing his street rod, a motorhome and two motorcycles in the hangar he’s rented since 2001. Now that he has to move his belongings out, he said he doesn’t know what he’ll do.
Although he expects to sell his street rod, his motor home and motorcycles are another question. Adams said he doesn’t hold a grudge against the airplane owners but questioned why they didn’t support the airport earlier by renting hangars.
Rondinella agreed that renters had a point. After all, there was a time during the 1990s and early 2000s when empty hangars went begging for renters, he said.
So, instead of letting the hangars sit vacant, the former airport director decided to rent them out for storage, Rondinella said.
It was during a time when the local flying industry was soft, Rondinella said.
Much like Adams, MJ Comeaux, a retired police officer who lives in Stockton questioned where local airplane owners were when the airport needed renters.
“We came through when the airport was in trouble,” he said. “Now, the airplane owners just want to monopolize the airport.”
Comeaux said the entire incident was all politics.
“Storing my stuff in there is no more a fire hazard than storing airplanes,” he said. Still, Comeaux, who builds muscle cars and stores his personal belongings in a hangar, said unlike Adams, he’s not going to make a fuss about moving out. Barbara Prince, who along with her husband store a Cessna 310 and Cessna 150 at the Stockton airport, said Martel’s decision was the right one.
Prince, 82, who, several years ago was forced to remove her personal belongings from a hangar, said hangars should only be used for airplanes. Besides the need for local airplane owners’ needs, Prince said another concern is damage to airplanes if flammables were stored in the hangars.
Martel said if the renters don’t vacate by the end of the year, they could be cited.
But Rondinella said the renters have to leave.
“They don’t have legal authority to stay,” he said.