Resident wants airport in plan | SteamboatToday.com

Resident wants airport in plan

Walter Scott asks city to put its future in update

Christine Metz

A resident is asking the city to consider updating its long-term plans for the Steamboat Springs Airport as it moves toward adopting the area community plan.

Walter Scott, who owns undeveloped land next to the airport, said a $16 million runway expansion project stipulated in the Steamboat Springs Airport Layout Plan Update is outdated and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the city does not intend to expand the runway anytime soon or update the long-term airport plan.

The plan, last approved in 1999, is scheduled to be updated every five years, Scott said, and should be mentioned in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan Update.

Scott’s major concern is an element in the airport plan recommending a 548-foot runway extension, which would require relocating a portion of Routt County Road 44. The extension would cost $16 million, mainly funded through a Federal Aviation Administration grant, but would require the city to spend $1.1 million.

The runway extension, Scott said, was designed to accommodate the Dash-8-200, a 37-seat turboprop passenger plane he said is out of production and rarely flown in North America.

Recommended Stories For You

Extending the runway by little more than 500 feet would not meet the needs of the increasing popularity of the 70- to 100-seat regional jets, which are faster and cost less to operate than the updated versions of the Dash-8-200, Scott said.

The extension also could lure smaller planes with less experienced pilots to fly into the Steamboat airport, Scott said. He pointed to the 28 deaths that have occurred in the past 35 years in accidents involving planes leaving or arriving at the Steamboat airport.

“You are going to tempt a lot of guys to do things they have no business doing,” Scott said.

Scott fears the reason the city is refusing to update the airport plan is because officials are hoping to bring more heavy aircraft into the airport.

In a letter to the Yampa Valley Airport Commission, the Routt County Board of Commissioners, City Council and city and county Planning Commissions, Scott asked that updating the Airport Layout Plan be an action item in the area plan update.

“A clarification of the intended use of the airport by the city would be of value to the community,” Scott wrote.

Scott also raised concerns about contradictions between the Airport Layout Plan and other city plans. The airport plan recommends that residential uses be discouraged in the flight-pattern zone, the same area proposed for residential development in the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan.

In response to Scott’s concerns, Hughes said the city is well aware that the plane targeted in the runway extension plan is no longer in production, but he also said the city has no intention to extend the runway.

“I think when the city made the decision to give up commercial planes and stay with general aviation, it also decided the current runways were sufficient for the planes that want to fly in here,” Hughes said.

Technology in the aviation industry continues to advance, Hughes said, allowing bigger planes carrying more passengers and luggage to take off on shorter runways.

“From our point of view, it is probably more realistic to take care of this airport as it is and wait for the airport industry to catch up to us,” Hughes said.

The runway expansion is not a high enough priority to put in the long-term capital improvement plan, the city said. And City Manager Wendy DuBord said the extension wouldn’t happen without an FAA grant, which comes with a 10 percent match from the city.

“The (expansion) is not likely. It is not likely it would ever happen,” DuBord said.

At the same time, Hughes said updating the Airport Layout Plan in the near future also is not likely.

“No one came forward with any reason to do that except Mr. Scott, who wants all the airport to go away, so he can create (a development),” Hughes said.

Like the area plan update, Hughes said, updating the airport plan will be timely and costly, and the city will have to make adjustments to accommodate post-Sept. 11, 2001, security concerns.

At Thursday’s Area Plan Coordinating Committee meeting, the airport’s long-term plan was discussed along with other plans within the city, such as the West of Steamboat Springs Area Plan, the Mountain Town Sub Area Plan and the Mobility and Circulation Plan, Hughes said.

The consensus at that meeting, Hughes said, was to acknowledge in the area plan that other plans existed and contained more detailed information.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com