By ABBY SOUZA
Rand Siegfried, who made his first solo flight on his 14th birthday, now has his own legal landing strip to take off from.
The Tuolumne County Planning Commission Wednesday recommended that the partially constructed airstrip on his New Peoria Flat Road property be approved by the board of supervisors.
Siegfried planned all along for a private landing strip on his property and began work more than a year ago. He just forgot to ask the county for permission.
"I didn't realize I'd have to get a permit to pave over that spot," Siegfried told commissioners.
A couple years ago, Siegfried and his family began looking for a place to visit via their recreational aircraft.
Siegfried said they spent time in Tuolumne County and decided it was a place they would like to have a second home. Then they saw the Peoria Flat Road property for sale in an aviation magazine.
Pilots used to land their planes there years ago, Siegfried said.
At one point, a developer had graded the land and created an airstrip. But Siegfried said the strip was unusable because large rocks would be kicked up during landing and could damage planes.
Siegfried said he hired a contractor to pave over the old strip before getting the permits "through stupidity."
A Palo Alto toy designer, Siegfried said he knows little about the building industry and was unaware the work he wanted to do required a permit or approval from local government.
"We all got into it over our heads," Siegfried said.
Once he found out the work he had done was illegal without county approval, Siegfried applied for a conditional use permit and an ordinance for rezoning his 2,490-foot long airstrip and its access road.
"(Siegfried is) basically trying to legalize what's already been done," Community Development Director Bev Shane said.
Commissioner Jerry Morrow was concerned about the number of planes Siegfried planned to have landing on his property.
"I'm going to limit that tremendously," Siegfried said.
He also said he would never let anyone land if he hadn't flown with him before and were without piloting skills.