The Camas County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-1 Tuesday in favor of three applications by Ix-Nay Investment Trust that would facilitate the development of a private airport with an 8,500 foot runway near Fairfield.
“The process was fair and equitable,” said P&Z Chair Jerry Nelson. “Camas County has been in decline since the 1960s. The benefit for the county will be better than what 1,600 acres of marginal agricultural land can provide.”
The P&Z Commission approved a conditional use permit for the Soldier Field Airport, which is a final decision. They also recommended to the Camas County Board of Commissioners a change to the comprehensive plan map, and a rezone of 300 acres to AG-80, which would make the airport feasible.
“These two recommendations must be approved by the county commission or the approved conditional use permit is null and void,” Nelson said.
Nelson and fellow P&Z Commissioners Chuck Baldwin and Ron Chapman voted in favor of the three applications. P&Z Commissioner Jeff Kreyssig voted against all three applications.
According to the submitted master plan, Soldier Field Airport would be designed and built to accommodate small aircraft as well as “very large general aviation aircraft” including the Boeing 737-800. The plan states that in the third year of operation, the airport could see about 1,500 landings or takeoffs on an airstrip 8,500 feet long and 150 feet wide.
A public hearing on the airport before the P&Z Commission on Sept. 22 drew about 80 people, a “record attendance,” Nelson said. Some complained then about the impacts the airport would have on the quality of life at Camas Prairie, while others said it would increase economic development.
Nelson said public comment seemed mostly split between long time residents of Camas County and newcomers.
“Quality of life, that is in the eyes of the beholder and I don’t know how to respond to that,” Nelson said. “Many who oppose the airport are relative newcomers to the prairie and work in the Wood River Valley. They only sleep here. If you make your living on agriculture and have for many years, the proposed airport would have little effect on your quality of life.”
Camas County has been responding to an airport application on the proposed site since 2016 with changes to the comprehensive plan and now has a procedure in place that requires plans and a conditional use permit.
“Before that people could just go out and set up an airport,” Nelson said.
The recommendations will go before the Camas County Commission at a date uncertain for final approval, perhaps in late October or November, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Dwight Butlin.