Helipad dispute lands quietly
Post Independent Staff
Usually, contention is a matter of course at county commissioners meetings. A recent meeting, however, was a study in cordiality. What began as a neighbor-against-neighbor dispute some months ago was settled to everyone’s satisfaction.
At issue is a helipad up in tony Missouri Heights.
In May, Turnberry Ranch applied for a conditional use permit to build a 25-foot circular landing pad for a helicopter. Jeffery Soffer, whose family owns Turnberry Development, a large commercial and residential developer that has built high-rise hotels in Miami and Las Vegas, owns the 625-acre ranch.
Soffer, his family and business associates fly into either the Aspen or Rifle airports and transfer to his private helicopter for a short hop to the ranch.
Residents near the Turnberry Ranch have complained about helicopters flying low over their homes. Although they acknowledged his right to operate in the uncontrolled airspace above Missouri Heights, they worried about noise, possible accidents, and if the chopper operation could devalue their property.
Rather than fighting the neighbors tooth and nail, Soffer met with the neighbors and answered their questions. He also adopted their suggestions, which his attorney, Tim Thulson, of Glenwood Springs, presented to the commissioners Monday as suggested conditions of the permit.
The commissioners readily accepted the suggestions as conditions, including dawn-to-dusk operations rather than the originally requested 24/7. In addition, Soffer has agree to limit the use of the helipad to his private helicopter, except in case of emergencies. Most importantly to the neighbors, Soffer agreed the chopper will fly no lower than 1,000 feet except when landing and taking off, and to vary the flight path so that no homes get all the traffic.
“We believe in reaching out to neighbors,” Thulson told the commissioners Monday. “We have mitigated the impacts.”
A series of neighbors also stood up and testified that they were happy and relieved about the helipad after meeting with Soffer, his pilot and ranch manager.
One of the neighbors, Davis Farrar, said the meeting with Soffer, and the ensuing agreement, “was better than duking it out in front of the county commissioners.”
Dale Ahrens echoed Farrar. “I appreciated the meeting. If further issues come up I think we can settle them in a neighborly way.”
Applauding the fact that the homeowners worked out their issues among themselves, Commissioner Tresi Houpt said, “I’m always happy when I see an applicant come to the (neighbors) and see a roomful of people who took time out of their day to support the process.”
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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