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Harriet Alexander Field at the Salida Airport could soon have a firm overlay and protection plan ready to secure the space around the facility from encroachment by residential development or hazards.

County commissioners, Salida Community Development Director Glen Van Nimwegen, Airport Manager Zech Papp, and members of the Airport Advisory Committee met June 24 to conceptualize the planning and restrictions to be put in place with Charlie McDermott, of Dibble Engineering.

The firm is also overseeing the upcoming major work at the airport, including the overlay and sealing work on the runway and taxiway.

Chaffee County Administrator Bob Christiansen chaired the session, and McDermott outlined the purposes of Airport Protection Areas, pointing out that controlled areas around airports are divided into different use restriction areas by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other regulatory agencies.

The proposed rules, McDermott advised, would be ‘a local decision’ developed in line with the county’s land use codes.

The rules are enacted to ‘promote compatibility between the airport and surrounding land uses,’ regulate the development of noise-sensitive land uses, protect the airport from incompatible development and promote the ‘health, safety and general welfare’ of property users.

These include runway protection zones; airspace approach and transitional zones; the airport traffic pattern and the overall protection area.

For instance, while things like churches, schools, parks, public and private assembly facilities, commercial property and residences would not be permitted in runway protection zones, some could be permitted in a more broad runway approach and airport traffic pattern areas. Densities of any residential development are also restricted, though allowed in some other zones of the overlay district.

In the overall airport overlay district, prohibitions can include any sanitary landfill, water or wastewater treatment plants, along with height restrictions and regulations of structures near the overlay district.

County Planner Jon Roorda pointed out the county had recently approved plans for an industrial park near the field, that has no residential component. It also gave an agricultural exemption to a nearby subdivision.

“The closer you get to the runway, the more protections you want in place,” McDermott reminded the attendees.

Some discussion took place over whether the historic Smeltertown smokestack would need review because of its proximity to the airport.

The myriad restrictions for ground level and airspace protections will be decided in future meetings with Papp, attorneys, and county officials. It will need to be brought before the Airport Advisory Committee, to Planning and Zoning, go through a public hearing before the Planning Commission and on to a full public hearing before the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners.

Funding for this year’s projects is provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and other sources. These funds will total an estimated $670,000 in available monies. The FAA this year has determined to fund 100 percent of the projects, which usually require some matching funds from city and county, according to Papp.

An additional $30,000 in grant funds were provided from the federal CARES Act financing, available to local transportation entities specifically to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.