Public support soars for airport |

Public support soars for airport

Greg Mass

John Q. Public weighed in Wednesday on the question of whether to close the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport. And if the score was kept, it would have been a blowout. But the meeting, held at Glenwood Springs City Hall, wasn’t about keeping score, Glenwood Springs City Council members said, it was about hearing input regarding all possible uses of the 60-acre airport. About 30 people expressed their opinions on the airport, with most imploring the council to keep the airport open. Many other nonspeakers attended as well, making the meeting the first standing-room-only meeting in the new City Hall’s Council Chambers. “To me, it would be incredibly short-sighted to take this away from Glenwood,” said airport proponent John Praetorius, who gave the presentation to keep the airport open. The others who gave presentations on possible airport uses were Fred Wall and Sue Hakanson for the Re-1 School District and Doug Harr, who addressed the possibility of using the land for residential and mixed uses, as well as for parks and open space. “The first thing I want everyone to know is that this is just an idea,” Wall said of the proposed high school layout. “There would be a lot of community input if it were to happen.”Wall and Hakanson also said the 14 1/2-acre plot of land on which the high school and its football field currently sit could be developed for other uses.In Harr’s presentation, he stressed his belief that if the airport land were to be used for residential applications, the homes built there should all be unique, not a cookie-cutter development. The three options came from the work of the Ad-Hoc Airport Committee, an 11-member group formed by City Council last summer to determine the highest and best use for the airport land. The group will meet once more, on Monday, Feb. 3, to take all information gathered thus far and put it into a report for City Council. The folks who spoke against leaving the airport open mostly hailed from the Park East subdivision. They pointed to reasons such as what they consider to be poor placement of the new row of hangars. Some said alternate uses of the land would be better and some said the airport is a private club for rich people and that other uses could benefit more people. Park East resident Charlie Randall said the airport is one of “marginal safety” and that the 1997 vote that overwhelmingly affirmed that the airport should stay was more of an anti-development vote than a pro-airport vote. Bob Gardner, another Park East resident, said he doesn’t like the hangars that are sprouting up near his house and that other uses of the land would be better.Mitch Randall, who also lives in Park East, called the airport a “private club for a very few individuals.” Airport supporter Bill Hamilton disagreed with that assessment, saying the airport “is not a country club for a bunch of rich fat cats to play.”Hamilton, along with most of the remaining speakers, spoke adamantly in favor of keeping the airport open. Their reasons ranged from the airport’s use as a business tool for many local companies, to its importance as an emergency medical flight portal. T.K. Gwin, an airport engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s aeronautics division, reminded council that CDOT is on the verge of topping the runway with an experimental asphalt-rubber mix, and CDOT wants the airport to stay open for at least five years to see how the new material works. “Glenwood is an important aspect for the state airport system,” he added. Other reasons given for keeping the airport open include:-The land’s original owners donated the land to the city on the condition that it would always be used as an airport;-With new technological advances in aviation, the airport’s future use could be largely increased with shipping or air taxis;-Once closed, the airport would be closed forever. A few business owners said they could be forced to move closer to the Rifle area if the airport is closed so they could use the airport there. A concern voiced by almost everyone was where traffic from either a high school or a residential development would go if council decides not to move forward with a new bridge connection south of Glenwood Springs to extend the city’s alternate route along Midland Avenue.No decision on the airport’s fate was made Wednesday. Instead, council members watched three presentations on possible uses for the airport, then heard citizen input.They plan to take the comments and presentations into account, get a final report from the Ad Hoc Airport Committee, then make a final determination later this year.

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