Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Community weighs in on Friedman successor

Report contains valuable, if conflicting, opinions


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

When it comes to a replacement airport, Blaine County residents say they want "five-star" luxury, sustainability and efficiency—and aren't afraid to demand that a new airport live up to those standards.

The results of four community workshops designed to gauge public opinion on the important aspects of an airport were released last week in a 24-page report by consultants from Mead & Hunt, an architectural and building company based in Minneapolis.

The report compiles community views on everything from what the new building should look like to whether Mountain Rides buses that serve the airport should run on alternative fuels. While the report is merely advisory, not binding, airport manager Rick Baird said the report will be invaluable in designing Friedman's successor.

"It's not a regulation, it's a tool," he said. "It's a way to document the thoughts of this community, north to south, regarding the replacement airport."

According to the report, many expressed concern that "the dramatic panorama of the mountain environment" that greets visitors at the current airport cannot be replicated at either of the proposed replacement sites. They urged finding design elements that will create a "unique gateway to the community and region."

Community members also said the airport should provide special amenities and facilities for all the types of travelers, from business passengers to second-homeowners and tourists. The needs of these users should be balanced with those of private pilots, the report states.

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Baird admitted there were conflicts in some of the community's statements as reflected in the report, and that it might be impossible to make everyone happy.

"Can we implement everything in there? Some of the comments are conflicting, so obviously not," Baird said. "But we have a great deal of community opinion and community input. This will be a very valuable document."

Baird said the public would have plenty of time to still comment on the design for the replacement airport, and the report will be modified as new ideas and suggestions come in.

"This will be a living document, a desk document, not a shelf document," he said. "Everything we do is very public, very open and there will be plenty of opportunity to comment."

Community Visioning Report

On the online edition, can you make sure the sidebar reads: "For the full report by Mead & Hunt, click here."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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