Now that the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA) settlement is known, the Town’s Airport Commission deliberated some of the fallout during its regular meeting Tuesday. The bad news: the Town has lost some revenue due to hanger leases transferred to original Hot Creek Development principal Terry Ballas, who was one of the plaintiffs in the settlement. The good news: the cancelled development agreement with Ballas means lots of land around the Mammoth Yosemite Airport has been freed up for other uses.
Before anything else can happen, however, the Town needs to finalize its Draft Airport Layout Plan (ALP). Airport engineer Reinard Brandley delivered a new draft earlier this month, and the Commission is anxious to get additional comments, corrections and other changes incorporated and submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by year’s end.
The ALP has already been revised to include the MLLA settlement and the cancellation of the Hot Creek Development Agreement. Also included are new FAA regulations and requirements not in place prior to the last draft submittal to the FAA in July.
In light of some oversights in the new and earlier drafts, Commissioner Thom Heller suggested forming a subcommittee to expedite the revision, which would ideally include Brandley to fix any glaring mistakes. Town Public Works Director Ray Jarvis said he would at least funnel all the information to Brandley, but also wants a schedule from him as well to make best use of available time.
Commission Chair Deb Pierrel agreed that the draft needed to be fine tuned, and would be okay with even one person working on it, if that meant being able to meet the end of the year goal.
Commissioner John Walter said he thinks the focus should be on a few key decision points, and that easy to resolve, “nit picky” things should be put to bed right away. “I’m not sure I want to go out and measure the runway again,” he said. “Focus on the biggie. Why are the taxiways 60 feet instead of 75 feet? Why do we list 737s in the narrative, when we are only forecasting a handful of those at most over the next 20 years? The taxiway wingtip distance to hangers: why isn’t what Stephen Kalish said right? What is the real grade on an airport? If the numbers are right, we should stand by our guns, but if it’s an old number, let’s find out what the right number is.”
Differing numbers, Pierrel posited, could both be correct, if interpreted in different ways. It’s not about being discrepancy free, she suggested, since virtually every airport has some discrepancy with federal code.
Another suggestion was bringing in civilian help from Kalish, who along with fellow citizen Owen Malloy has been one of the most outspoken watchdogs on the airport’s planning process. “Kalish has done a pretty thorough review of the new draft,” Heller mentioned. “We can disagree with some of his comments, but he’s also proposed some very positive solutions to problems. I’d like to see him somehow included in the final product.”
Jarvis said some of Kalish’s comments are already incorporated and being used in the ALP, but was concerned about slowing down the revision and dragging out the timeline too long to meet the Dec. 31 completion goal.
Town Council has already given its signoff on the draft in progress, and will not review this iteration before it goes to the FAA. Council is expected to see the next revision with any further comments from the FAA at that point.
As mentioned earlier, the cancelling of the Hot Creek DA means a lot of property now reverts back to the airport. Portions of the property could be used for a number of options, such as a future tie-down apron and future long-term vehicle parking, which Pierrel and Jarvis think should all be on the table for consideration. Other options could include hangers that could accommodate Gulfstream G4 jets. The $40 million aircraft, which for comparison are about the size of a Fokker 100 or slightly larger than a regional jet, fly into other peer resorts. Jarvis suggested this might be a class of aircraft Mammoth and the Mountain might want to attract.
Going along with that, perhaps another runway as well. All those and other ideas will be put into larger discussions of land use coming in the near future. Expect land use to be a big part of the Commission’s discussion on a new five-year plan early next year, which is to replace the 2008 version.
While the Town doesn’t have the FAA terminal expansion grant match money “in its pocket,” according to Jarvis, the plan is to have it well underway within 5-6 years out. Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director John Urdi told the Commission there is potential for setting aside some of the possible $4 million in new revenue, should the Tourism Business Improvement District be approved, for bonding the match dollars.