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The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission has approved an application for a “fly-in” community at the private Picabo Airport, in southern Blaine County.

A new subdivision might soon give pilots a chance to live where they land.

On Thursday, Dec. 19, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission approved an application for a “fly-in” community at the private Picabo Airport.

The commissioners unanimously approved Picabo Livestock Co.’s plan to create six residential lots adjacent to the airstrip, allowing future homeowners to taxi straight from their driveway to the runway.

“Residential airparks” are new to Blaine County, according to Deputy Land Use Administrator Kathy Grotto, but have popped up in other parts of the country, including in the intermountain West. The concept runs flagrant to the county’s plan of avoiding development near its public airports. Picabo’s is private, though, grandfathered in, and smaller even than Smiley Creek’s or Carey’s public runways. Its grass strip handles light aircraft with wingspans under 50 feet—and, right now, very few.

“Three or four is kind of a lot down there,” Nick Purdy, who both owns Picabo Livestock and the airport, said of the number of planes. “I don’t think it’s been an issue in the past.”

The P&Z was more concerned with what’s next, especially the draw of fly-in events to Silver Creek, a world-class fly-fishing site.

“I don’t think we can look to the past to see the future,” Commissioner Susan Giannettino said. “This is a major change in land use—I think a recognition of capacity … makes some sense.”

The commission ended up capping the number of aircraft that can be parked on any residential lot at three. Add that to the seven or so that can park on the airport itself, and you’re looking at 25 planes on the upper end. The commissioners also limited take-offs and landings to the hours between dusk and dawn—not a problem, Purdy said, because he’s the only one who lands at night now, anyway.

Adding those terms to the subdivision’s plat grants the county the authority to enforce compliance. Day to day, though, it’s up to Purdy as airport manager to supervise who flies in and when. The airport is essentially “self-regulating,” Grotto said. It can’t expand, or embark on any major changes without risking its grandfathered status; and, since the length and size of the runway determine the type of planes that can land, it’s unlikely to see the private jets that frequent Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey.

Before moving to Picabo, Layne Felton lived in Woodside subdivision, next to Friedman. He isn’t opposed to the development, as long as the county maintains some control over use.

“I’m trying to get away from one airport,” he said. “I don’t want to deal with the same thing down there. Whatever Nick’s vision is now, bless his heart, whenever he’s gone someone might change it. We’re just trying to protect our vision for the future.”

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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