For sale: $$$ new homes under a flight path at our local airport

You’ve got to hand it to The Union: Once it grabs hold of an issue that rivets the interest of its management, it won’t let go — sort of like our dog does with her rubber pull toy.

If only all the issues got equal time. This inevitably leads to charges that the newspaper management has a pro-development, pro-conservative editorial agenda (in a county that is becoming more “purple” politically, not “red.”). It’s become a familiar refrain — for years.

For long-timers, the pièce de résistance was the saga of Bruce Conklin, the supervisor whom The Union went after like a pit bull in 2004. “The accusation raised by Mr. Ackerman that ‘Conklin traded integrity for money’ has itself raised an issue of intent,” wrote Nevada City resident Jim Hurley at the time. “Did he trade journalistic integrity to engineer a Board of Supervisors more to his political liking?”

Hurley continued: “But there is a larger issue here that goes beyond personal judgment, and that is the responsibility of the journalist. The Land Trust held a press conference, fearing that their side of the story wasn’t being told. At this conference the question was asked whether anyone on the Land Trust board had been contacted by the authors of the editorials before publication. The answer was, ‘No.’ Mr. Ackerman has given the appearance of trading journalistic integrity to promote an agenda.”

The Union’s brass denied all this, but the outcome was significant — changing the makeup of the supervisors to a more conservative flavor that exsits to this very day.

Flash forward to today, when the “great reset” has decimated our economy because we’re still too dependent on construction and real estate.

Now The Union has devoted copious amounts of ink in recent weeks to a lawsuit filed by the City of Grass Valley and developers/real estate speculators — “seven people,” all told — over an airport safety plan that was approved by the Airport Land Use Commission.

•An initial story was titled “Airport plan: Worth another look?” — sounding more like an editorial than a news story. It began: “When officials were considering whether to approve a new land use plan for the Nevada County Airport recently, local developers stood up and begged them to wait. Begging aside, the issue seemed straightforward enough: ‘The airport land use plan restricts development around the airport for the safety of people on the ground and to protect the airport from noise complaints by encroaching neighborhoods.’ But the developers/real estate speculators weren’t satisfied — so they sued.

Wait, there’s more!

Then we read — almost in real-time — that the petition was filed and learned all the developer’s arguments: (how a public hearing was announced and held as required — but the group still didn’t think it was appropriately notified; how one land-use commission member who supports the suit claimed he didn’t know about the plan — even though he sits on the commission and is privy to the same information as the others). We also learned the coup de grâce: how the developers/real estate speculators asked for an EIR to slow down the process — an ironic turnabout in most land-use debates.

Here’s all we heard from the “other side”: “The Airport Land Use Commission consists of members of the Nevada County Transportation Commission. Transportation Commission Executive Director Dan Landon had not seen the petition Thursday and said he could not comment until it had been reviewed.”

•Now this week we learned more from the Commission in a story alarmingly titled “Safety, jobs and public policy crash at Loma Rica Airport.”

The response: “Landon has looked at the properties of each of the seven people who say their land is affected by new, stricter and larger safety zones around the runway on Loma Rica, east of Grass Valley. He plans to tell them their properties — like others’ nearby — are not affected by the new plan. “Anything that’s already allowed under county zoning, you can do,” Landon said. “If (a use of the property) is consistent with your zoning, chances are, it’s consistent with the land use compatibility plan…” OK, so what’s the fuss?

•Well, we finally we get down to brass tacks this morning, setting aside the “property rights” argument of the seven landowners and getting to the heart of the matter — the build out at Loma Rica. In “Contractors: Plenty of $$$ in Loma Rica development,” we learn that the airport safety plan could interfere with “economic stimulus” from the project. Not just the entire project — mind you — but the proposed building of residences at McBoyle Lake — 35 instead of 105. “The neighborhood within the larger development the left-turn pattern of departing aircraft, which has a somewhat higher chance of accidents than other patterns,” it reads.

Since the real motives have been exposed, let’s ask the larger question (which I hope will be answered tomorrow!): Who — please do tell — is going to buy a new $$$ home under the flight pattern at Loma Rica Airport? It will take years to sell off the existing inventory of homes that are for sale around here — some of them brand-new “spec” houses. And I might add, maybe it’s time to look at the “economic stimulus” of the airport itself, with a new land-use plan that finally complies with the current safety regulations.

Let it go man!

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

10 thoughts on “For sale: $$$ new homes under a flight path at our local airport”

  1. I’d love to hear from the rest of the owners of the homes for who the airport is a centerpiece of their choice of dwelling. These are the people who own planes and live along side the runways, and at the the other end. Surely they must have something to say about the notion of a group of homes owned by those rich and powerful enough to say, for example, demand that only emergency flights be allowed to make that left turn, because of the noise.

    My guess its that is that all this sand in the air is an opening volley to argue that once to be public pool and park area is no longer economically feasible, since it has served its purpose in moving the project forward, and wasn’t really intended to be on the table in the first place. Slick move by the developers!

    1. Everyone in this community, not just the pilots who live near the airport, benefits from the airport being here. Our having our airport is our key to having Cal Fire. Is there anyone here who doesn’t whisper a thank you under their breath each time they see or hear a Cal Fire plane fly over? Protecting the airport means protecting our Cal Fire base. No one currently living here cares about noise from the tankers (which do take off over the proposed development). In fact is is music to our ears. Anything that makes the airport environment safer for Cal Fire makes living here safer for all of us.

  2. This one is shaping up to be more interesting politics-wise than Conklin, pitting the GOP moderates against the TPP and hard right. (A theme we discuss here often).
    Nate Beason and Ed Scofield were on the Commission that voted for the plan.
    Both are GOPers.
    Meanwhile, the hard right, TPP has announced Sue McGuire to run against Beason.
    Will the Contractors group endorse Sue, not Nate? That’s the word on the street, at least for now.
    Will The Union support Sue, not Nate?
    The Union’s editor/publisher is going to a TPP meet-up on Nov. 7:

  3. Well, at least our local airport is not like Cameron Park where many residential streets are taxiways. Cameron Park airport is sort of like Alta Sierra airport, but a much larger scale.

  4. I believe The Union commenting areas, unmoderated, disappeared last January. Imagine what a field day we could have had with the Repubby candidate wannabess!

  5. Not only do the proposed $$$ homes fall under the flight path, but also, the proposed “office/light industrial” (which we need like another hole in the head) which would destroy the existing asset of the 1/2 mile training track designed by famed jockey, Johnny Longden. Sorry to keep “beating a dead horse,” 10% of whose remains still remain in the center of the track. But who wants to work/do business along Idaho-Maryland Road just east of Brunswick UNDER THE RIGHT TURNING FLIGHT PATH? Not worth the safety risk, I say, to destroy a unique existing asset for more surplus business parks.

    1. Don’t apologize for bringing up Noor. There should be a statue of Noor and all of his remains on land permanently protected from development. The whole thing about Noor was so sad. I’m just glad he was moved somewhere safer, but am so sad that that Grass Valley cares more about development than history. Gosh Grass Valley doesn’t even care about the quality of life for the citizens it already has. If they did, they wouldn’t allow this mega development.

  6. “Who — please do tell — is going to buy a new $$$ home under the flight pattern at Loma Rica Airport?”

    Good questions and one that needs to be answered. At least if these homes go in, it should have to be disclosed to the prospective buyers.

    Now the homes can be insulated against sound, but what if those wealthy folks who are expected buy there spend a day with the window open or want to give a posh garden party. What if they want to do that on a day that Cal Fire is fighting a big fire here or elsewhere? I believe that building a bunch of high end homes under the flight path favored for take offs spells disaster for homeowners, pilots, and airport. So the question for me is, do I want to protect Cal Fire and keep them and the airport here, or do I want to enrich the developers and possibly lose Cal Fire and the airport? There is no contest to my way of thinking.

    I believe this airport plan vote is one of the reasons that the Tea Party is mounting a challenge to Nate Beason and one of the things they will try to use against him. I believe Supervisor Beason (my supervisor) did the right thing by voting for this new plan. It is an issue of safety.

    Full disclosure: I’m a certificated commercial pilot, though currently inactive, and a life long aviation enthusiast. I live south of the airport under the landing pattern for Runway 25 (landing to the west). Where I am, noise is minimal when ops are being conducted properly. I’ve been following this and I’ve thought that the Union has been very biased (what else is new) it its coverage.

  7. If the airport really wants to seal out the Loma Rica project, develop an instrument departure plate that calls for a turn over the proposed project until radar contact or intercepting the Marysville VOR. Then quickly get it approved by the FAA air traffic inspector or designee.

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