Jerome County offered as model for airport, land use planning

Jerome County airports

The Jerome County airport is one of the state’s premier general use facilities in Idaho, explains Bill Statham, a project manager and airport planner for ITD’s Division of Aeronautics.

Its paved runway is 5,000 feet long and 75 feet wide with a full-length, parallel paved taxi strip. It also has:

  • Six published GPS approaches,
  • Runway lights,
  • Approach indicating equipment,
  • Hangars,
  • Several fixed base operators,
  • Fueling services,
  • Maintenance activities,
  • Agricultural spraying operations, and
  • An aircraft restoration business.

It also is air ambulance facilities and is a southern gateway into central Idaho’s wilderness areas.

The Jerome airport has 60 registered aircraft, more than 24,000 annual aircraft operations. It supports 105 related jobs with a residual payroll of $3.1 million and a combined $10.5 million annual economic impact on the region.

The smaller Hazelton airport generally serves agricultural interests with a basic paved runway 2,800 feet long and 50 feet wide. It includes runway markings, a hangar, five registered aircraft. It accounts for about 2,900 annual aircraft operations (takeoffs or landings), supports 15 related (aggregate) jobs with an annual payroll of $335,500 and an economic impact of $1.3 million.

Land use plans by their very nature are attempts to strike a balance between diverse – often competing – interests. Introduce the unique requirements of a public-use airport into the land use mix and the process can become even more complicated.

Airspace, aircraft noise and “incompatible uses” require special consideration when developing comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.

If city and county officials in Idaho want a blueprint to follow when amending existing plans, they can look to Jerome County, suggested J.V. DeThomas, administrator of the ITD’s Division of Aeronautics. The county could serve as the “poster child,” he said.

The southern Idaho county completed new airport zoning ordinances in March and new zoning maps early in April for the Jerome County and Hazelton airports, culminating a process that began in September 2007.

As part of the process to update the county’s comprehensive land use plan neared completion, members of the airport commission noted gaps in the protection of areas near both airports. Plans did not fully meet requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Without the advantage of federal funds, the county contracted with T.O. Engineers of Boise to begin addressing the shortcomings. In November 2007, the county invited a broad range of constituents to help lay the foundation for a new county airport plan.

From the outset, public interest and participation was strong, explained Bill Statham, airport project manager for the Aeronautics Division.

The organizational meeting and subsequent hearings were well attended and productive, he said. Public and private parties worked diligently to find a “balance between what’s recognized as best management practices for establishing zones around the airport with the desires of local property owners.”

New plans needed to incorporate existing uses and those already approved for land near the airports while protecting flight paths and potential long-range airport development and expansion.

Few of Idaho’s general aviation airports experience problems with associated noise, so that was not a significant part of Jerome County’s revised plan. Airspace required at both county airports was well defined, although modified slightly in the new plan.

The greatest concern was over the airport influence area – a 20-square-mile zone around the Jerome County airport and a 16-square-mile area around Hazelton’s airport. Those zones specify allowed and prohibited uses, such as housing density and subdivisions, commercial/industrial uses, agriculture, recreation, public uses and birds and wildlife.

Airport impact areas and air traffic zones at both airports were reduced slightly as a result of public input. The final product – a 13-page airport zoning ordinance – reflects attention to detail and a willingness among most participants to reach an acceptable compromise.

“For the county commission and planning and zoning commission to approve the maps and ordinance as last submitted is an incredible accomplishment for Idaho,” Statham said.

“This is a significant positive step forward on the part of Jerome County to provide protection for not only the airport and the airport users but also for persons living near the airports. The zoning ordinance is so structured that it provides for consideration of alternative development proposals around the airport within the framework of the protections recognized as essential for the public use airports.”

Airports receive award at FAA regional conference

Jerome County’s airports received special recognition last week by the Federal Aviation Administration. The award was presented April 13 in Seattle at the FAA’s Northwest Mountain Region conference. The region singles out high-achieving airports in each of the seven states.

The award was based on pavement rehabilitation, financing and completion of the new land-use ordinance. Jerome County airport manager Bonnie Deitrick accepted the award.

The region includes Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Washington, Colorado and Utah.

Published 4-22-2011