The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday approved and recommended to the City Council a new section in the city’s comprehensive plan dedicated to land use and zoning around Freidman Memorial Airport.
The text amendment was initiated by staff to comply with state law regulating zoning procedures for aviation hazard areas and protect the “character of the flying operations” at the airport and the character of surrounding neighborhoods.
“This will help us avoid impacts down the road,” P&Z Chairwoman Janet Fugate said.
The recommendation comes at a time when the cities of Hailey and Bellevue are poised to begin area-of-city-impact talks with Blaine County to determine where and how to develop land between the two towns, land that could lie in areas of concern for airport personnel.
“The area-of-city-impact maps that city staff are working on correlate strongly with this,” Hailey Community Development Director Lisa Horowitz said.
Airport Manager Chris Pomeroy, who introduced the new Public Airport Facilities section to the commission, said “communities should be mindful of any impacts on the airport.”
State law protects public airports as “essential community facilities that provide safe transportation alternatives and contribute to the economy of the state.”
The new comp plan chapter lays out multiple sections geared toward “proactive planning” around the airport to ensure the safety of aircraft operations and neighbors and assure that the airport can continue to operate safely and successfully, “protecting the federal, state and local investment.”
Pomeroy said Friedman Memorial Airport was No. 2 in providing economic benefits in the state (behind Boise Airport) generating $305 million last year. He said a “dual path’ continues to exist in the airport master plan that allows for possible relocation of the airport.
Pomeroy said zoning goals included in the new comp plan section would serve two goals: the prevention of hazards and protection of the quality of life around the airport.
The zoning goals include maintaining existing open space in the vicinity of the airport “especially in key areas off the runway approach and departure corridors” to reduce risks for people and property on the ground and in the air.
The plan also would discourage high-density residential development and encourage commercial and industrial uses near the airport that benefit from and do not conflict with aircraft operations. An addition approved Monday includes a preference for “open space” in those potential zones.
Development of an Airport Vicinity Overlay District is also proposed in the plan section, to better identify an Airport Influence Area and “critical zones,” following federal regulations for “safe, efficient use, and preservation of the navigable airspace,” that would include building height restrictions and criteria for evaluating land uses or activities adjacent to the airport.
The state placed no deadline for cities on implementing airport zoning.
If the City Council adopts the addition to the comprehensive plan, it is likely to consider these priorities during negotiations with Bellevue over development scenarios and annexations under the flight paths of aircraft taking off and landing from Hailey’s airport.
Hailey City Attorney Chris Simms said ongoing area-of-city-impact negotiations with Bellevue could trigger more refined deliberations on what can and cannot be built around the airport.
“Although the comp plan is not a zoning designation, our communications with Blaine County could result in a zoning process,” Simms said.