Longmont’s Airport Noise Approach
Being Responsive Works by Explaining Policy & Basis for Rules
Some cities, perhaps more precisely City Managers and Airport Managers, just get it. The City of Longmont, CO owns and operates the Vance Brand Municipal Airport, to the south and west of the city center. The 4,799’ runway is the critical infrastructure for a full service FBO, Fly Elite Aviation and the 317 aircraft based at LMO.
In recognition of this asset, the City established
- an active Advisory Board, which
- reviews and recommends a long-range master plan and financing plan for the Vance Brand Airport;
- reviews and recommends actions concerning leases, fees, and annual budgets for the airport;
- develops and recommends annual goals and objectives for operation and development of the airport;
- reviews and recommends actions concerning the airport rules;
- presents an annual report concerning the status of the airport;
- promotes the development and utilization of the airport pursuant to the adopted master plan and airport rules; and
- promotes awareness, utilization, and development of the airport pursuant to, and consistent with, the Council’s adopted goals and objective and master plan.
- Issued a 2013 Economic Impact Summary for Vance Brand Airport
- Hosted Public Presentation on Airport Noise Complaints
- Which included a very thorough explanation of what the City could/could not do, especially about the ski-diving organization located at LMO
- Offered some suggestions about reasonable mitigation of the noise
- Published and monitored Voluntary Noise Abatement Procedures
Mile-Hi Skydiving Center is the primary source of noise complaints. The Airport Manager David Slayter has worked with the company to minimize the impact, but as noted above, the FAA’s grant assurances limit what the City may do. He meets with the noise complainants who vary in their feedback on the dedicated website, Link2Longmont service-request system, from 16 to over 100 reports per individual.
The outcome of all of these initiatives:
“…the 2016 complaint database showed a 712-complaint decrease from a year earlier. The airport recorded 969 complaints filed with the city’s Link2Longmont online concerns logging system in 2015, compared to a total of 257 complaints last year.
The total number of people filing those airport-noise complaints also fell, dropping from 90 people in 2015 to 33 people in 2016, Slayter reported.
Slayter and the Airport Advisory Board, which are to present their annual report at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, said all but 15 of last year’s noise complaints were directed at planes flown by Mile-Hi Skydiving, one of the airport’s tenants.”
Slayter and Airport Advisory Board explained that they have been involved in an “airport outreach program.” These efforts entail individual resident discussions about airport operations. Even more proactively, the airport proponents have presented to local civic organizations. “The philosophy behind this program is to have the airport be a partner in the community where both negative and positive impacts can be discussed, and whenever possible, mitigated and-or enhanced,” the report said.
The local community marketing campaign has been backstopped by the Colorado Court of Appeals Dec. 22 decision finding in favor of Mile-Hi Skydiving and ruling against Citizens for Quiet Skies and other plaintiffs who had filed a noise lawsuit against the skydiving company. The judicial opinion supports Mr. Slayter’s explanations; so his statement that his hands are tied has been affirmed by the CO courts.
Some political/governmental experts contend that silence by airport officials is the best course in dealing with such issues. Taking a stand tends, or so the theory goes, to activate the critics. The Longmont/Slayter/AAB tactic seems to show that by being positive, explaining not only the policy, but the basis for the rules and being responsive works.