Project to look at future of city’s muni airport site
Future expansion of Glenwood Springs’ Municipal Airport facilities — or something entirely different for the 64 acres of flat, developable land at the south edge of town — will be the subject of a new state-funded planning effort by the city.
The Colorado Department of Local Affairs has awarded Glenwood Springs a 50 percent matching grant of $87,500 from the state’s Energy and Mineral Impact Fund to conduct an Airport Property Scenario Planning study.
The effort will include a land-use comparison, accompanied by a “community benefit and economic analysis” for the city-owned land within and surrounding the airport, including the former rodeo grounds, the “boneyard,” and surrounding vacant land. About 18 acres of the larger site is not developable, due to steep slopes and the adjacent Roaring Fork River bed.
Tanya Allen, transportation manager for the city, said the city will seek proposals from firms to do the $175,000 study. The project is expected to take a full year to complete once the bid is awarded and terms of the DOLA grant contract are finalized.
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“This area is seen as an important component for the overall development of the city, and is also tied very closely to the South Bridge project,” Allen noted, referring the planned, but as-yet-unfunded $45 million connection near the airport across the river to Colorado Highway 82.
Current bridge engineering plans call for an underpass roadway beneath the south end of the airport runway, connecting to the new span over the river.
“The larger question is, whether the area will be developed as an airport, or something else, and the different implications of that,” Allen said. “We need a better understanding of how the future of that area is going to look.”
The city’s Airport Board, which includes some of the private pilots who use the facility, agreed to write a letter of support for the grant, as long as it included a study of potential airport enhancements that could make the facility more viable.
The airport land study is one of several revitalization or redevelopment initiatives currently being undertaken by the city. Other efforts are focused on the Sixth and Seventh street corridors downtown, as well as the Roaring Fork and Colorado River confluence area west of the main downtown area.
All of the city’s planning efforts acknowledge the geographic constraints of Glenwood Springs to accommodate much more growth in the way of residential and commercial development.
“The city has a fast growing population coupled with a lack of housing, major transportation, and other development and infrastructure challenges,” city officials noted in a news release announcing the latest planning grant opportunity. “The airport sits on flat land with stable soil providing the potential for development in South Glenwood.”
The airport planning project will have three major components:
• Stakeholder engagement and public outreach;
• Land-use alternative comparisons and economic cost-benefit analysis; and,
• A design concept, based on a preferred scenario.
Glenwood Springs’ 2011 Comprehensive Plan identified the airport as a “Future Study Area.” The grant will allow for a determination of the best use for the land, based on the project’s alternative-use findings and recommendations for implementation.
So-called “stakeholders” are expected to include Glenwood residents, businesses, government agencies and city departments, surrounding neighborhoods, airport users, the Airport Advisory Board, and the city’s Transportation Commission.
“This public engagement will contribute to an assessment of the political feasibility for various options and will begin to shape a vision for the property with community buy-in and support,” according to the release.
As of January, the Glenwood airport was home base to 63 small-engine airplanes and nine helicopters. In 2017, the facility collected $40,808 in various fees, including hangar leases, annual and long-term tie-downs, and nightly tie-downs. That number was up from $38,965 in 2016, and $37,064 in 2015, according to the airport’s semi-annual report to City Council that was presented in January.
Also in 2017, the airport reported that 26,128 gallons of fuel were sold, bringing in $111,243.77. The amount of gallons sold was down slightly last year compared to 2016, according to the report.
Site-based operators include Aircraft Repair LLC and various sightseeing companies. A commercial skydiving outfit that had been operating at the Glenwood airport a couple of years ago no longer is located there.
Classic Air Medical, based at Valley View Hospital, also operates out of the Glenwood airport and maintains equipment there.
“The airport traditionally operates on a small but comfortable profit margin, consistent with its role as a shared community asset and city-owned enterprise,” the semi-annual report states. The report also noted that 2017 was a “year of transition” for the facility, with the retirement of long-time facility manager Dick Weinberg and the naming of Amy Helm as the new manager. Helm was instrumental in organizing an Aviation Expo last year that drew 500 visitors.
A 2013 economic impact study for the airport estimated that the Glenwood facility contributes approximately $3.9 million to the city’s economy each year, including generating 36 jobs.
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