An investment group backed by unidentified individuals has plans to build a private airport on a 1,600-acre private ranch property in Camas County about 10 miles east of Fairfield.
The airport, if approved, would have the capacity to handle modified private-use commercial Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Actor Bruce Willis is widely rumored to be behind the plan. In 2004, he offered to donate land in Camas County near U.S. Highway 20 for a potential relocation site for Friedman Memorial Airport, but the site was not chosen and the relocation effort later stalled. In 2016, he began construction on a dirt landing strip in the area, triggering concerns by locals and changes to county land use regulations.
Willis used applicant, Ix-Nay Investment Trust, to purchase several properties in Hailey in the 1990s, according to past reports by the Idaho Mountain Express. He previously owned nearby Soldier Mountain Ski Area, which is on national forest land north of Fairfield.
The Camas County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold three public hearings on Tuesday, Sept. 22, beginning at 7:15 p.m. to consider a required comprehensive plan map change, rezone and conditional-use permit to pave way for the proposed airport. The P&Z hearings will take place at the American Legion Hall at 114 Camas Ave. E. in Fairfield.
County Planning and Zoning Administrator Dwight Butlin provided the Express with a submitted master plan for the airport on Thursday. He said he did not know the individuals behind Ix-Nay Investment Trust, but said that he had communicated with Jviation Inc., the company that prepared the master plan, and an attorney in Twin Falls representing the applicant.
According to the 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.
“Other businesses could be established on or around the airport in the future as warranted by demand,” the master plan states.
Some residents of Camas Prairie are against the development. They include 25-year resident Judith Freeman, a noted author.
“It seems the airport issue has raised its ugly head again, and again with so little transparency,” Freeman told the Express. “Who is Ix-Nay, this secretive ‘developer’ who sends out lawyers to do its bidding and has in the past tried so hard to hide its intentions?
“If this zoning change is rammed through, permitting such a large, noisy and toxic airport, the perennial beauty of this extraordinary prairie will be forever lost, never to be regained, and we will have forfeited our community’s most valuable asset—the silence and solace of this beautiful world.”
The Camas County commis-
sioners voted in January to change the zoning ordinance for airports and airstrips from principal designated use on Agriculture-80-zoned land to a conditional use, reversing a decision made by the commissioners in 2017 to make airports a principal use.
Most of the proposed runway is in an area zoned Ag-80, but a portion is in Ag-5, an area that does not allow airports or airstrips as a principal or conditional use. Ix-Nay hopes change 300 acres of that portion of the property to Ag-80. Any zoning change recommended by P&Z would have to be approved by the county commissioners at a later date.
First, though, Ix-Nay hopes to amend the county’s comprehensive plan future land-use map to accommodate the airport development. The requested change, which will open the public hearings at 7:15 p.m., would apply to a parcel of land located about 10 miles east and 1.5 miles north of the intersection of U.S. 20 and Soldier Road in Fairfield. Butlin declined to provide further details on the comp plan map change request. Following a Freedom of Information Act request submitted in person by the Idaho Mountain Express last week, he agreed to have the documents prepared in print only by Thursday, Sept. 17, at 5 p.m.
A public filing for the map change request states that it would pertain to two separate parcels 80 and 60 acres in size. Any comprehensive plan changes recommended by the P&Z would have to be approved by the county commissioners at a later date.
Ix-Nay also hopes to get approval on Sept. 22 for a conditional-use permit for the airport development during a public hearing at 8:15 p.m. This final permit approval would not have to also be approved by the county commissioners.