Following is a press release from Brent Blue, founder of ThoughTheFence.org. In our opinion, Dr. Blue has done an outstanding job of pursuing the through-the-fence issue to the benefit of ALL property owners, but especially those who currently enjoy the benefits of a legal, and binding, through-the-fence agreement.
The FAA’s new Airport Compliance Manual (ACM) adversely affects every federally funded airport by its new mandate telling local airports how to deal with their neighbors. The new policy forbids local airport authorities from entering into new “through-the-fence” (TTF) agreements with neighboring land owners and requires non-renewal of current agreements at the end of the contract term. The rule, which replaces “discourage” with “prohibit”, affects thousands of businesses, pilots, aircraft hangars, and hangar homes connected by gated taxiways to airport property.
The FAA, responding this week to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, could not provide any data to support new prohibitions on TTF agreements. The new prohibitions were announced in the ACM 5190.6B unveiled September 30, 2009, which was prepared without any public input or comment.
A TTF agreement permits the owner of private land next to an airport to have legal access to the airport. The owner of the land, which may be used for business, hangar, or hangar home, pays the airport a TTF fee for this access and uses on airport services such as fuel and maintenance. The agreements provide significant income to the airport authority and loss of this funding threatens the economic viability of some airports.
Airport access generally increases the value of the private land increasing property taxes that benefit the general public. Hangar homes, where pilots live in adjoining residences with aircraft hangars, provide increased security due to their presence as vested observers of airport activity day and night.
“The new TTF prohibition rules look like FAA staffers made them up as they went along based on their own prejudices without one iota of supporting data,” stated Brent Blue, organizer of www.throughthefence.org. “This is a classic example of government gone wrong.”
One of the two FOIA requests by Blue asked for any documentation of noise complaints from owners of hangar homes. FAA cites noise complaints from neighboring hangar homes as one of the reasons for prohibiting TTF hangar homes at federally funded airports. The FAA’s Director of Airport Compliance Randall Fiertz could only state “we were not able to locate any records or files pertaining to your specific request, and we are unaware of any other federal offices likely to possess responsive records” in a December 16th letter to Blue (download complete letter).
The second FOIA asked for “any and all records…that went into the formulation of FAA policy related to ‘hangar homes/residences’ and “through the fence” agreements.” Blue stated “the response to the second FOIA was even more absurd. The FAA’s response was public documents of their current decisions and their attempts in the past to stifle TTF activity but not one shred of material which supports the establishment of the prohibition. It is obvious they have no supporting data for the rule change.”
Although the FAA does not have any specific jurisdiction over airports, the Agency coerces local airport authorities by withholding Airport Improvement Grant money and/or threatens to ask for it back if an airport is found to be not in compliance. The FAA’s policy does not allow for airport authorities to decide for themselves the best relationship with surrounding private properties and property owners should be. According to Betsy Johnson, an Oregon State Senator and former Manager of Oregon Aeronautics Division, the FAA’s new TTF prohibition is “bad for airports, bad for the economy, and bad for the future of aviation.”