Friday, March 20, 2009

Walk a mile in Hailey's shoes

Ed Cannady is a Hailey resident.


As a Hailey resident, I have to say that I am bewildered by recent statements of some north valley officials and private pilots that they are "angry and resentful" over the plan to move Friedman Memorial Airport out of Hailey.

On many ideal summer evenings while my wife and I try to relax on our deck, we have to smell exhausted jet fuel wafting in from the airport. I would bet that Sun Valley Mayor Wayne Willich and Ketchum City Councilman Charles Conn have never experienced that at their homes, and they're angry and resentful?

The noise from takeoffs and landings frequently disrupts our otherwise peaceful, pleasant neighborhood. Messrs. Willich, Conn, Fenton et al. escape this impact too, and they're angry and resentful?

Hailey Elementary School, where my wife works, lies just beyond the north end of the runway, in the bulls eye of an unlikely but certainly possible, unspeakable tragedy, and they're angry and resentful?

The hospital and YMCA were both built in the north valley because that is where the money is. We're expected to live with the impacts of the airport solely for the benefit of north valley Realtors and businesses, and they're angry and resentful?

The north valley has 80 percent of the assessed property value in the county; my property values are lower because of proximity to the airport. I want the airport to move to improve my quality of life and public safety; they threaten to sue to stop it, and they're angry and resentful?

I am confused. I would have thought it was Hailey residents, having heard some north valley folks threaten to sue to stop the airport move solely for their economic benefit regardless of the impact on our quality of life, who have cause to be angry and resentful.

By having the airport literally in the town of Hailey we are subsidizing the north valley with our lower property values and increased safety risk. I do not believe the economic doomsday scenarios thrown out by some north valley airport obstructionists. This valley has recreation opportunities to compete with any place in the United States. A little more travel time is easily offset by assuring travelers they won't have to take that long wintertime bus ride to or from Twin Falls.

I was hesitant to write this commentary. I do not think this kind of dialogue is helpful or constructive. But the recent pronouncements by north valley officials, the formation of a private pilots' association and the threat of legal action to stop the move seemed to make it necessary.

I challenge those in the north valley who think us unreasonable to walk a mile in our shoes. Imagine someone wanting to raze 80 homes in your neighborhood to expand and perpetuate an airport that already has a profound impact on your life. Imagine having Hemingway Elementary School or The Community School lined up to be devastated by a runway overshoot or approach gone wrong. We would never wish that for your kids, but just imagine if it were the case. Those who so adamantly opposed small-group tours of Ernest Hemingway's home due to the effects on your quality of life, please imagine how it would be to smell and hear aircraft on a regular basis. If you can do this honestly, and still insist on resisting the airport's move, it will be clear why you stand where you do. I hope instead that you will join us in improving the quality of life of all the valley's residents.

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