Need new airport ordinance |

Need new airport ordinance


The county faces two independent challenges with the airport ordinance issue. First, to get the FAA off our backs.

Second, to respond to the residents’ desires to increase protection against the potential for overwhelming airport development over the long haul. The current proposed ordinance achieves the first goal but falls very far short of the second.

Absent trustworthy facts and guidance from your government, and in the face of loud misleading voices with self-interest, my advice would be to listen to the voices that have zero personal gain or aviation bias, along with credible expertise in the subject area. Those folks seem to universally recommend a no vote and are quite sure there will be no tax increases as a result.

There is a wide range of potential airport threats over the long term, such as a large flight training school or a huge jet invasion, as depicted in the ongoing marketing plan of Pinon Aero (see These and other threats have become reality elsewhere, so we ignore the threat at our own peril. The current weight limit is necessary but insufficient protection – we must also control infrastructure with few words, to avoid loopholes. Besides, the airport is already “right-sized.”

The proposed ordinance is “watered down” to the point where it can never provide protection. I count 22 loopholes. So it must be rejected in favor of a better solution to be brought back to the voters in 2012. In the meantime, no great harm will come and taxpayers will not suffer.

Just six simple changes to the current proposed ordinance will sufficiently fix it to provide reasonable protection without significantly hurting any current or future local aviators or aviation business at our airport. Call this a sensible Plan B.

Resolve the weight capacity numbers, once and for all. This isn’t rocket science. Lock the engineers in a room until they come out with agreement. Why are we being asked to approve an ordinance with no weight numbers?

Forbid any pavement weight bearing upgrades.

Remove the airport manager’s discretion.

Install maximum fees and penalties for overweight aircraft.

Forbid any new infrastructure. Look, we would all like a larger house, but the current airport configuration is perfectly adequate.

All proposed land leases and development projects must be vetted to assure compatibility with the ordinance and retaining the airport’s character. We need real protection against the massive Pinon Aero vision, with its huge environmental impacts.

These ideas are simple, rational, and defensible.

They are also compatible with the FAA and with the new “Economic Vitality for Douglas County” strategic plan, which properly identifies our airport as a key enabler to a strong fiscal future.

We will only have one chance to get this ordinance right, so send it back for a rewrite and insist on genuine protection. Vote no on the airport ballot question, unless you want to open our airport to all comers.

Jim Herd