The Loop Newspaper - Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

By Pat Doody 

Tehachapi City Council Update


The Tehachapi City Council discussed a critical FAA inspection report and extended the Interim Marijuana ban at the Oct. 16 meeting.

At the Oct. 16 City Council meeting, Assistant City Manager Chris Kirk presented an Airport Land Use Inspection Report from the FAA which was received by the City on Sept. 29, 2017. The FAA had completed an inspection of the airport between May 9 and May 11, 2017 and found the City to be potentially non-compliant with Grant Assurance requirements unless corrections are made to leasing procedures and lease rates. City Manager Greg Garrett had prepared a response to the inspection report indicating that the City would take steps to correct any deficiencies under the City Council's direction.

The inspection was triggered by a letter received by the FAA stating that the land north of the airfield was being graded for a motocross track and that portions of the airfield were being used for non-aeronautical purposes. The FAA examined everything including the Airport grant history, ledgers from 2013/14 to 2016/17, the Airport's five-year budget and all ground lease agreements and deeds.

They admitted that they did not find any motocross activity happening at the airport. Kirk said that the misconception may have come from fill dirt that was moved to the property from other projects. Another major FAA concern was that the City may not have based their non-aeronautical ground leases on Fair Market Value appraisals as stipulated by FAA grant rules. As examples they cited Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association rodeo grounds, Airport Industrial Center, municipal sewage ponds, Kern County Transit bus rent-free parking, Kern County Red Cross trailer rent-free parking, ten billboards and cell tower leases. The City also does not charge itself rent for two storage hangers and for vehicle storage.

Councilman Phil Smith reminded the Council that Mojave airport has a baseball field on the airport property that also does not pay rent. He added that he was not comfortable charging rent to the Red Cross or Dial-a-Ride. Tehachapi resident and member of the Tehachapi Society of Pilots George Sandee said that he thought that FAA demands, "Went beyond common sense. They used to only control in the air, now they're in our hangers."

City Manager Garrett said, "The FAA is not our friend," but added that there was nothing in the report that could not be corrected to the satisfaction of the FAA. "The FAA encourages non-aviation activities," said Garrett, "the event center helps to support the Airport Enterprise Fund." Garrett was authorized by the Council to submit the City's prepared response to the FAA.

The other issue addressed and passed by the City Council was the second extension of the Interim Ordinance Prohibiting Commercial Non-medical Marijuana Activity in the City and all outdoor marijuana cultivation at private residences. The first Interim Ordinance is due to expire on Nov. 20. The extension would ensure that the ban would be in place until the City finalizes its permanent ordinance. The first reading of that ordinance is due to come before the council on Nov. 6 with the second reading scheduled for Nov. 20. If passed, the ordinance would go into effect on Dec. 20, 2017.


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