Rocky Mountain airport plan scrutiny intensifies

Community group calls for noise and pollution studies before business expansion

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/16/21

A community group and neighboring municipalities asked the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport to pump the brakes after the airport published a draft of a new strategic business plan The airport …

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Rocky Mountain airport plan scrutiny intensifies

Community group calls for noise and pollution studies before business expansion

Posted

A community group and neighboring municipalities asked the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport to pump the brakes after the airport published a draft of a new strategic business plan

The airport identified about 200 acres of land where it can develop new facilities to help keep up with future industry demands. For the airport’s many neighbors who regularly complain about noise pollution, among other issues, the prospect of more planes and larger planes are the last things they want to see materialize.

The strategic business plan has been controversial for months, but a more concerted outcry followed the airport’s release of a draft plan on Aug. 1.

“Despite our best efforts to communicate our concerns to elected officials and others charged with the management of RMMA, public welfare is being ignored in favor of the business interests that guide the development and expansion of RMMA,” wrote Save Our Skies Alliance, a community group, to the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners in a letter on Aug. 5.

The group, which created an online petition that received at least 1,500 signatures, wrote the commissioners in advance of a board meeting on Aug. 10 that featured a discussion on the strategic business plan. Jefferson County owns and operates the airport.

In its letter to the commissioners, Save Our Skies Alliance added, “Changed conditions are so extensive that a strategic business plan … a plan that Airport Director Paul Anslow characterizes as a `strategic business plan’ is inadequate.”

If the airport moves forward with the strategic business plan, the impact is significant because it would multiply the current level of activity out of the airport, the group said.

The airport is the fourth largest in the state. The average number of aircraft to arrive and depart from the airport each day last year was 519, said Ben Miller, senior planner with the airport.

The draft of the strategic business plan details the airport’s current operations. It is one of three “reliever” airports in the Denver metro region, meaning it diverts general aviation traffic away from Denver International Airport.

The airport accommodates leisure flyers, who use small planes, corporate aviation for private jets, four flight training schools, two “fixed base operators” to provide services to itinerant aircraft, and cargo air travel. Fixed base operator services range from parking, fueling, maintenance, and passenger handling, among others.

In the strategic business plan, the airport describes future industry trends, identifies opportunities for business expansion, and locates parcels where it can place potential new businesses.

Potential additions to the airport include a new T-hangar for small leisure aircraft — a T-hangar can hold up to 128 total units — and new tarmac space for corporate aviation, flight training, and a third fixed base operator. The airport is currently unsure if it will need to build new facilities for cargo airlines, according to the plan.

In its letter to the Jefferson County commissioners, the Save Our Skies Alliance said it was concerned about the airport pursuing new business opportunities without updating its land use and master plans first.

The current land use and master plans were adopted in 2011, and a lot has changed with the airport since then, the group said. Updating those other plans first would enable the airport to further study noise complaints, residential development in the surrounding area, and environmental impacts.

In response to the Save Our Skies Alliance letter, Miller said that the airport forecasts an update to its master plan in 2028. “The airport is still programming capital projects into the ten-year CIP that original as recommendations in the 2011 (master) plan. Current operations and conditions are also consistent with projections in the plan,” he added.

In addition to the community group, local municipalities also expressed concerns about the strategic business plan in a recent community noise roundtable meeting.

The roundtable — a group of elected officials from municipalities surrounding the airport — met the day before the county commissioners were scheduled to meet to discuss the plan.

Mark Lacis, mayor pro tem of Superior and a roundtable member, proposed a resolution for the roundtable’s endorsement to slow down the strategic business plan process. The city of Louisville and Boulder County also supported the resolution, said Jefferson County Commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp, a roundtable member.

Ultimately, the whole roundtable did not endorse Lacis’ resolution, nor did it endorse another resolution proposed by the town of Superior and city of Louisville about airport noise mitigation strategies.

Yet, when the commissioners met Aug. 10 to discuss the strategic business plan, they stated they still had questions they would like answered before the strategic business plan moves forward, said Jefferson County spokeswoman Julie Story.

Technically, county staff does not need formal approval from the commissioners to move forward with the plan, but the staff agreed to track down answers to commissioners’ questions before moving forward with the plan. The commissioners also wanted to wait to receive additional input from the community noise roundtable, which is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 13.

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