Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bellevue citizens up in arms over airport

City to plan special meeting


By MARK A. YORK

For the Express

The Bellevue City Council proposed a town hall meeting this month to discuss airport expansion after hearing from 25 residents Thursday, all opposed to expanding Friedman Memorial Airport south towards Bellevue.

"I've received a lot of letters and e-mails on this," said Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch. "I don't want it. For the record, I'm opposed to any expansion of the airport." The crowd applauded.

Councilman Larry Plott said a formal meeting to hear residents' views on the matter should take place before the council issued an official position.

"Right now these are just our personal opinions," he said.

Koch said the date of meeting, to be held at the Bellevue Elementary School, would be announced at the Tuesday, Oct. 4, Friedman Memorial Airport Authority meeting in Hailey.

"Everyone needs to be there and make their voices heard," said Bellevue planner Craig Eckles. "The question you will hear there is, 'Should the Hailey airport be considered for expansion?'"

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The attendees at the meeting responded with a resounding, "No."

"They should hear us loud and clear," said Councilwoman Barb Patterson.

The council received 15 letters, many with multiple signatures, from residents opposed to airport expansion. The proposed expansion would be on the Eccles' Flying Hat Ranch, between Bellevue and Hailey..

Residents cited noise and plummeting property values as concerns should the airport be extended to the south. "It's not just the runway," said Donna Serrano, who lives in the Chanterelle subdivision, the residential area closest to the expansion. "It's all the buildings and the tower, too."

Florence Blanchard of Lower Broadford Road cited valley wildlife impacts in her letter to the council and at the meeting.

"There are many negative impacts on Bellevue," Councilman Dave Hattula said, and added that an airport location south of Bellevue would be a great boon to the town. "I'm against it (expansion of the current site) as a citizen," he said.

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration put on hold a review of plans to relocate the airport in southern Blaine County, citing concerns about funding and destruction of habitat for rare sage grouse.

Eckles said that plan appears unlikely.

Some attendees said they were being sacrificed for birds.

"We aren't an endangered species," Koch said.




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