Grand County adopts plan needed if Kremmling airport is to expand
February 27, 2008
Grand County commissioners adopted the layout plan and overlay zoning ordinance for McElroy Field Airport in Kremmling on Tuesday.
The airport’s co-owner, the town of Kremmling, has not yet voted on the airport plan.
Neighbors were assured that a major expansion of the general aviation airport located southeast of Kremmling may not start for another 20 or so years, dependent on federal funding.
“And it very well could never happen,” said Dave Sammons, whose wife Chris’ great grandfather Henry McElroy gave the property to the county and the town for the airport, as well as land for the county fairgrounds.
“One for the betterment of agriculture and the other for the betterment of aviation,” Sammons said.
Although expansion plans are said to be a far-off notion, an airport “master plan” must be put in place in order to maintain and be considered for Federal Aviation Administration funding, according to County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran.
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“The FAA puts a lot of money in these airports,” explained the county’s airport consultant Airport Planner Justin Pietz of Armstrong Consultant Inc., Grand Junction. “Airports have had to shut down because of incompatible development in the past.”
The Sammonses own River Ranch Village Mobile Home Park neighboring the airport runway. The adopted overlay, if applied in the future, would affect a row of 19 mobile home sites directly south of the runway, if it were expanded.
The expansion would be necessary if the airport were to cross the threshold of increased use. Currently, the airport is host to 150 take-offs and landings of Category C airplanes a year, or planes that weigh up to 68,000 pounds.
McElroy is a B Class airport, however, and the heavier planes landing in Kremmling has caused the FAA to take note.
It takes 500 annual take-offs and landings of the heavier aircraft for the FAA to require the airport to progress to a Class C airport, according to Pietz.
Such use would trigger the need for an expansion. Present use triggered the need for an overlay plan.
Yet 150 annual operations now to 500 predicted in the future is a “large gap,” Sammons said.
Pilot Dennis Carpenter, airport advisory committee member who lives at the end of the runway, differs, saying it’s possible.
“What the FAA is saying is they could possibly reach it in the next five years,” Carpenter said. “There’s a lot more jet traffic all the time. We’re seeing it more and more each year. Private jets are coming in, so, yeah, that’s a real possibility. We see more every year, and they (pilots of private jet aircraft) bring a lot to the local economy.”
But Sammons has doubts.
“With the cost this will be to the county, and the amount of money the federal government is already spending, it’s my personal opinion this will never happen,” he said. His pilot father-in-law uses a hangar at the airport. “If it does happen, we’re 15 to 20 years before they ever do this.”
His reasoning is the rising cost of aviation and the fact that scores of the ultra-ultra rich are not flocking to Kremmling quite yet. Furthermore, the FAA would have to cough up around $20 million for an expansion. “I suspect there are other airports in this country growing faster than we are,” he said.
Plans to the airport are malleable, updated every five years in accordance with changing regulations.
“The people that it will impact if it does happen will be very well compensated,” Sammons said, referring to mobile home owners in his park ” property owners with land in the “red zone ” identified as Zone A just beyond the airport landing path.
Such property owners would be paid fair-market value if their property ever needed to be acquired for an expansion, Pietz said.
Until then, property owners have full rights to their lots as they exist within current county and Kremmling zoning laws.
Concern was voiced about the Kremmling fairgrounds, just north of the overlay “no-build” zone.
The FAA has assured the county that the fairgrounds would not be affected, according to Pietz and Curran.
Sammons feels confident the fairgrounds are protected. “The county has gone to great lengths to make sure of that because they have a large investment there,” he said.
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