Airport zoning plan in a holding pattern

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— The city of Steamboat Springs' two-year effort to adopt a new overlay zone district at its airport is in an indefinite holding pattern, as attorneys for the city and a nearby property owner attempt to work out their differences.

The "Airport Influence Area Overlay Zone District" is critical to the future of the Steamboat Springs Airport because it would determine what types of development can take place surrounding the airport. Typically, airports try to maintain a buffer between themselves and residential development both for safety reasons and to avoid potential litigation related to noise pollution. The overlay zones also determine where related commercial development can take place. The zoning map would change to permit different uses as the distance of the land in question from the centerline of the airport runway increases.

"You're trying to protect the environs of the airport from encroaching development and at the same time identifying compatible uses that could be developed in that zone," airport manager Brian Feeney explained. "There are certain zones, both on approach and departure, that are in aircraft critical zones that have additional safety concerns."

The city is "backing away" from trying to adopt the ordinance this spring because members of the Patricia Scott Family Partnership are objecting to provisions in the document that they say could reduce the value of their property, City Attorney Tony Lettunich said this week.

The city thought it was within two weeks of successfully working out its differences with the Scotts in December 1999, but that did not prove to be the case. Lettunich has engaged outside counsel to assist the city's efforts.

The city has a strong incentive to work with the Scott family because it is being urged by the Federal Aviation Administration to acquire a portion of their property, Lettunich said.

"They've expressed their disappointment with the way the zone districts have been drafted and the way they would restrict the property owner's ability to use the property," he said.

The Scotts were also unhappy with a recent appraisal of the land, he added.

Attorney Jack Sperber, representing the Scotts, has indicated in writing that his clients would consider litigation against the city should it chose to adopt the overlay zone without first satisfying their concerns.

The Scott family owns 30-plus acres of land near the airport, some of it stretching along the east side of the runway's southern end. The Northwest Colorado Aviators, a group of private pilots, urged the city late last year to acquire 14 acres along the east side of the runway because it presents the best developable ground for businesses that might want to locate close to the airport.

Lettunich said the parcel of most interest to the FAA is a 3.71-acre piece immediately adjacent to the runway in the "Runway Object-Free Area." The federal government wants the city to acquire that land for safety reasons, Lettunich said.

The Scotts also own land along a boundary known as the "building restriction line," which represents the closest place that buildings can be built to the east side of the runway, Lettunich said. The airport terminal is built along that line.

Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said this week the decision to back away from adopting the new overlay zones would not hold up any other city initiatives, including plans to overlay the runway this summer. Implementation of the West of Steamboat plan will not be held up either, she said.


-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail tomross@amigo.net

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