Kimberly Gibbs

Longmont Council Needs Prodding to Adopt Drop Zone Fees

When will the next one land on Airport Road?

For several months, the Longmont city council has been considering a signficant increase drop zone fees, which would be based on the drop zone square footage of 338,000 sf (recommended by the USPA.) The fees would go from the current $7,800 to $70,000 per year.

Longmont airport advisory board Aug agenda and June minutes – search for keyword $70,000

For many years, Mile-Hi Skydiving has been getting a free ride, while the airport enterprise fund can barely meet operating expenses. They were paying zero dollars for the 40-acre drop zone area until we made council aware of the oversight. Then they began paying the annual permit fee of $7,500 codified in the city ordinance – still a paltry sum compared to the damage they are causing. Worse yet, in 2016 Longmont tax dollars – to the tune of $40,000 – were siphoned from the General Fund to pay for airport expenses. Your tax dollars were misdirected and taken away from other worthwhile public projects and amenities.

The drop zone fee proposal has languished since the AAB began reviewing it, and has not moved forward for at least 3 months now.

At least one council member has suggested that it would be very helpful for Longmont residents to speak at their meeting (PITBH) and urge them to proceed with the fees, without further input from the AAB. Your opportunity is tonight, Tuesday 8/22 at the Longmont city council meeting, 7 pm – I hope you will be there and also send an email to council. We must have Longmont residents driving this issue – I cannot do it for you but will provide full support.

Longmont city council email address

June 20, 2017 email: Kimberly: Attached is the information you requested regarding the airport. The answer to question 4 below is as follows: In 2016 the General Fund funded $40,000 for “Development Funds for Airport Utilities and Drainage Master Plan”.

Valeria Skitt
City Clerk

Many thanks,
Kimberly Gibbs
Founder, Citizens For Quiet Skies, Boulder County, Colorado

Stop by our table at the Longmont Farmers Market – Sept 2nd and Oct 7th

No Ceiling for Noise

photo by D Wray

Working for or against the community?

The recent editorial touting the positive economic benefits of the Vance Brand Airport (VBA) was aimed at rallying support for efforts to increase airport operations (Lewis/Slayter opinion 7/26/2015).  The authors claim that further benefits will result from “implementation of the Airport Master Plan,” a veiled reference to the airport expansion, and particularly the runway extension that city council unanimously approved in 2012.

While you ponder the economic benefits provided as justification, consider the undeniable consequences of airport expansion:  more aircraft, more flights, more touch-and-goes, more nighttime flights, more noise and more pollution.

In exchange for your tacit approval for airport expansion, the authors, on behalf of the city, promise to “continue working to address noise concerns.”  Their efforts will include 1.) encouraging commercial instead of residential development near the airport, 2.) encouraging compliance with the voluntary noise abatement procedures (VNAP) and 3.)  asking the FAA to enlarge or modify the skydiving “flight box.”

These promises are distractions, not solutions. What steps have been taken so far?  None.  In fact, noise from skydiving operations has increased since the recent lawsuit ruling in Mile-Hi’s favor.  How would future commercial development help the people who are already subjected to the constant droning of the jump planes?  Regarding the VNAP, there is no enforcement, no fines and no accountability for pilots who choose not to follow them.  Consider that Mile-Hi Skydiving owner, Frank Casares, testified under oath that Mile-Hi pilots consistently follow the noise abatement procedures.  Finally, expanding the flight box will only subject more people to the noise and allow more jump planes to operate concurrently.

So, what can be done to address noise concerns?  Aviation attorney John Putnam presented a lecture in Longmont recently on this topic.  The airport receives Airport Improvement Program (AIP) federal grants in exchange for assurances to keep the airport open to all aeronautical users on reasonable terms.  The grant assurances limit the operator’s ability to adopt regulations to reduce noise.

Mr. Putnam stated that “[Grant assurance 22a] does acknowledge that airports can make reasonable rules governing the access to that airport.  However, the key piece is that it has to be reasonable.”  He also noted that a Part 150 noise study is voluntary and not required as a prerequisite for imposing local noise or access restrictions.  Mr. Putnam further explained that, in practice, the FAA deems all restrictions to be unreasonable, so it is difficult to justify regulations aimed at reducing noise.

Can airports survive without the federal grants?  Yes, according to Mr. Putnam, and real-world examples include East Hampton, NY and Santa Monica, CA.   Since 1982, the city has accepted about $4.7million in AIP grants. That’s an average of $204,347 per year – a modest sum that could be collected through airport user fees.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving – 70% of Longmont’s noise pollution. Photo by M. Douglas Wray (free to use if attributed)

Who is really benefitting from the airport?  On summer weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving accounts for nearly 70% of operations. Pilot training and touch-and-goes account for another sizeable chunk of traffic.  Clearly, the airport users are the ones benefitting from the airport and they should pay their fair share for its maintenance, instead of relying on federal taxpayer subsidies that prohibit local control.

You are being asked to surrender your rights to accommodate aviation interests – don’t allow the soothing promises to lull you into complacency.  Remind city officials that the people who live here – both city and county residents who spend their hard-earned dollars in Longmont – are the lifeblood of the community and a high quality of life is worth taking a stand.  Would you allow a Longmont business to poison the water or foul the air? No, you would demand regulations to protect the health and well being of its citizens.

The time has come for the city to adopt sensible and mandatory regulations to address community noise concerns.  Otherwise, the solution will be to disentangle the airport from the onerous demands of the FAA grant assurances in order to restore local control over airport operations.

Quiet Skies: Speaking at Longmont city council

Vance Brand airport - Now a liability for Longmont?

Vance Brand airport – Now a liability for Longmont?

On behalf of Citizens For Quiet Skies, I would like to speak about the airport in the context of avigation easements.

At the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) meeting in February 2013, the airport manager Tim Barth and Don Burchett with the planning department gave a presentation regarding the proposed West Grange Subdivision. This proposed subdivision was located at the southeast corner of Nelson Road and 75th Street, which is within the Airport Influence Zone.

In the meeting packet memo, Mr. Barth explained that since the early 1990’s the has used an airport disclosure statement to inform home buyers of their proximity to the airport.  Mr. Barth recommends that the city transition away from the airport disclosure and instead engage in the use of legally binding avigation easements.

So, what is an Avigation Easement? An avigation easement is a conveyance of airspace over another property for use by the airport. The propery owner has restricted use of their property subject to the easement.  The acquired easement rights typically include the right-of-flight of aircraft; the right to cause noise, dust, vibrations, to name a few. The avigation easement on the property “runs with the land”, meaning that future owners are also restricted.

To summarize in plain English, the airport disclosure does not protect the city from being sued for damages from excessive noise.  The avigation easement does – it is a legally binding document.

So, what does the home buyer receive in exchange for signing the avigation easement?  Example 1 shows 1 dollar in consideration. Example 2 shows ten dollars. For ten dollars, the home buyer signs away their rights to peaceful enjoyment of their land.

At the board meeting, Tim Barth and several board members commented on the proposal.

Mr. Barth said that with the avigation easement, the city has some protection, it doesn’t stop complaints but it protects the city.

Who is “the city.” The dictionary defines a city as “ the people who live in a city.” Was
Tim Barth aiming to protect the people of the city?

Board Member Morgan commented that, because of the numerous complaints, the disclosure was not working well and a stronger document or avigation easement would be in order.  Board Member Yates stated that the airport needs to be able to have airplanes come in and out without distractions or disturbances. And finally, board Member DaHarb said it is imperative to support the avigation easement project and move forward … for the city’s protection.

At that meeting, the airport advisory board unanimously passed a motion to support avigation easements.  However, it is my understanding that council did not move forward in considering this ill-conceived and nefarious plot to subvert the rights of citizens and homeowners.  I hope that Tim Barth’s successor will have a better sense of his role as a public servant.

In my experience talking with a lot of people, residents who live near the airport expect to see and hear some airplanes.  But they also have an expectation that there will be reasonable regulations in place to minimize the impact to the community.  What we are living with now appears to be a lawless free-for-all where anything goes.

I believe the City has two viable choices for managing the future of the airport.

  1. Adopt a comprehensive noise abatement plan that includes mandatory limits on skydiving operations and addresses other local concerns, for example touch-and-goes and helicopters.  These limits may include reducing access to airport property for use as a parachute landing area – land which is currently being given away for free.
    or
  2. Close the airport.
    Those are the choices.  The current path is completely unacceptable and we cannot continue along the current path.  We can either adopt reasonable regulations and manage the airport responsibly or close it.

Thank you.

The Great Giveaway Program

News Flash: The Longmont Airport is costing you a bundle.

News Flash: The Longmont Airport is costing you a bundle.

The Colorado Division of Aeronautics is taking some well-deserved heat for grossly overestimating next year’s tax revenue from aviation fuel sales. This revenue is used to fund the Colorado Discretionary Aviation Grant Program (DAGP), which supports runway maintenance and other improvement projects for Colorado’s 74 public-use airports. The grants for 2015 were initially projected at $15 million, but they were recently revised downward to $3 million – a $12 million shortfall.

Vance Brand airport - a public resource or a giant money-pit?

Vance Brand airport – a public resource or a giant money-pit?

Colorado airport managers harshly criticized the division’s wild miscalculation. And Longmont airport manager Tim Barth stated that the funding cutbacks will hamper airport and economic growth down the line (“Colorado airport officials admit errors, vow to save grant program” (11/19). But there is more to this story than meets the eye.

For those of us who have analyzed the airport budget it is obvious, at least in Longmont’s case, that the funding crisis has been years in the making and largely self-inflicted. Longmont officials have fully embraced a budget model that relies too heavily on federal and state subsidies, and not enough on revenue from airport users – a tiny fraction of residents who actually benefit from the airport. City officials are responsible for charging reasonable fees to use airport property. Yet for many years Longmont has elected to leave money on the table, as the following examples show.

Mile-Hi not paying fees? Why??

Getting a free ride – at your expense.

The airport has designated a Parachute Landing Area, also known as a skydive drop zone, covering about 40 acres. Assuming for a moment that the best use for this prime real estate is a drop zone, shouldn’t the city earn revenue from its use?

  1. The Longmont Municipal Code (section 4.64.040) clearly specifies a $7,500 annual fee for the use of airport property and further states that no one may use this area without first obtaining an applicable permit. Yet curiously, the city is not assessing this fee. In fact, there have been no drop zone fees assessed since June 1999.
  2. In 2007 the city leased about 180,000 square feet of airport property to a skydive operator. The initial annual lease amount was $41,566 (roughly 23 cents per square foot.) The skydiving company currently enjoys the use of that land. However, that lease is still considered “inactive” and no fees have ever been assessed nor collected – ever.
  3. In 2004 and 2007 the city considered a modest $1 per jump fee, which would generate more than $30,000 in airport revenue annually. Both times, this funding option was rejected. Again in February 2012, the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) revisited the proposed fee. A brief discussion followed in which a city employee described the airport budget as “bare bones.” Still the AAB voted unanimously to strike all information regarding the skydiving jump fee from the Airport Business Plan, thus hampering any further consideration by the city council. The result: zero revenue. Longmont officials have the fiduciary duty to manage the airport finances ethically and in the best interests of the community. The first step toward solving the airport budget crisis is ending the great giveaway program. Airport users should pay a fair market rate for use of airport property – especially private businesses that are reaping enormous profits and enjoying a free ride at taxpayer expense.

Kimberly Gibbs is a Boulder County resident and the organizer of Citizens For Quiet Skies.

Citizens For Quiet Skies – Lawsuit Is Imminent

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

Boulder County, CO – Citizens For Quiet Skies announced today that a lawsuit is imminent regarding their efforts to address the community noise impact from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes.  For more than two years Quiet Skies has made efforts to work toward a cooperative solution with the skydiving operator and the city of Longmont.  These efforts have failed.  As a result, Quiet Skies has retained the law offices of Randall Weiner, a Boulder environmental law firm, to seek a remedy via the courts.

Thousands of north Boulder County residents who live under the Mile-Hi Skydiving “flight box” are affected by the noise.  The flight box extends from the Longmont airport northwest to Lyons and south to Gunbarrel, including Niwot, Hygiene.  On weekends, Mile-Hi Skydiving operates multiple aircraft concurrently, for more than 12 hours per day.  In particular, the white and purple DeHavilland Twin Otter creates the most objectionable noise, which is described as a low-frequency reverberating drone.

The city of Longmont, as the airport proprietor has the authority to regulate operations to address community noise concerns.  However, the city has continually refused to adopt reasonable regulations that would offer some measure of relief to the community.

Further details will be provided at a brief public announcement:
WHAT:   Announcement of lawsuit
WHEN:  Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30 pm
WHERE: Longmont Public Library, 409 4th Ave. Meeting room A, Longmont, main level

To find out more about Citizens For Quiet Skies:

Web:  CitizensForQuietSkies.org
Facebook:  Citizens For Quiet Skies
Primary organizer:  Kimberly Gibbs
303-530-6918
kimberly_gibbs@yahoo.com

Shame on Us

$3.89 million buys our government. Good deal for the NRA

$3.89 million buys our government. Good deal for the NRA.

On Saturday, I received a fundraising call from a nice man representing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the U.S. Senate. He started by thanking me for my past support. Ten seconds into his pitch, I interrupted and informed him that from now on my contributions will go to candidates who fully support sensible gun safety regulations. Now that my eyes have been opened, gun safety will never again be a back-burner issue for me.

Recently, the Senate voted on seven amendments aimed at strengthening federal gun laws, including expanded background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and banning assault weapons. All of them failed, in part due to the influence of the powerful pro-gun lobby.

The NRA membership includes about 4 million ordinary Americans who have presumably embraced Wayne LaPierre and the NRA’s paranoid and distorted world view. But whom does the NRA truly represent? According to a 2011 study by the Violence Policy Center, since 2005 the NRA has received as much as $38.9 million from gun and ammunition manufacturers and sellers, including Beretta USA, Glock and Ruger. Under the phony guise of protecting Second Amendment rights and opposing “tyranny,” the NRA and their allies oppose any and all firearm regulations. These absurd arguments are aimed at distracting us from the real problem of gun violence and lining the pockets of the gun industry.

Recent editorials have angrily shouted “Shame on you!” to U.S. senators for their recent votes. I say “Shame on us.” Shame on us for our collective failure to stand alongside our neighbors in Aurora, Newtown and communities throughout America — neighbors who have lost their loved ones due to senseless acts of gun violence.

Before you decide where you stand, think it through.

The next time it may happen to you.

Times Call Story was Mile-Hi propaganda

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving's Twin Otter skydiving planes.

One of Mi-Hile Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving planes.

The “Making It Work” series highlighted local residents who make our community work, presumably in a behind-the-scenes public-service type role. I enjoyed the article about lunch lady Sandy Lenhardt, which was well deserved.

In contrast, the article featuring Mile-Hi Skydiving pilot Clayton Schultz wasn’t really about Schultz at all. Instead, it was shameful propaganda aimed at glorifying Mile-Hi Skydiving. The Mile-Hi Skydiving jump ships were highlighted, in particular the Twin Otter, which generates hundreds of noise complaints each year. Nevertheless, Schultz loves “being at a job where people are really having fun and enjoying it.” And he wants us to know that he and the others at Mile-Hi are thinking of us folks on the ground too. Indeed.

Back in 2011, Clayton and I attended a meeting with Frank Casares, owner of Mile-Hi Skydiving. I spoke on behalf of the Citizens for Quiet Skies group and explained our concerns about the incessant noise from the jump planes. The noise affects areas of Longmont and rural north Boulder County. Frank was not interested one bit in making any changes to reduce the noise impact to the community. As a result of our ongoing noise complaints, Mile-Hi Skydiving mailed us “I love airplane noise” bumper stickers.

Mile-Hi Skydiving will soon be ramping up and operating more than 12 hours a day with several aircraft, including not one but two Twin Otters. And they have plans for a significant expansion.

After exhausting other options, we are now pursuing legal action to gain relief from the noise. With your help we can prevail. If the noise bothers you, please consider making a generous donation to our legal fund. Checks can be mailed to:

Citizens for Quiet Skies
P.O. Box 19203
Boulder, CO 80308

Questions? Please join us on Facebook.

Transparency difficult for Mi-Hile supporters

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Mile-Hi Skydiving’s Twin Otter skydiving plane.

The noise from Mile-Hi Skydiving jump planes does not bother Ricky Lee Landrum one bit (Open Forum, Oct. 4). Mr. Landrum states that he lives near the airport and is a frequent golfer who plays at Twin Peaks Golf Course.

First, it’s curious that he is just now responding to my letter from three months ago. Second, Mr. Landrum fails to mention that he is an avid skydiver, as shown in his bio on the OpenStage Theatre and Company website.

The Mile-Hi jump planes operate for up to 12 hours or more a day, including every Saturday and Sunday. They climb aggressively over our homes and circle constantly over north Boulder County. It may not bother folks who are hard of hearing or who spend their days inside an air-conditioned home with the TV blaring. But for those who prefer to live with the windows open, or who spend a lot of time outdoors, the ubiquitous drone is quite irritating.

In 2007, Mile-Hi Skydiving executed a new Specialty Based Operator airport lease agreement with the city. According to the lease terms, South Parcel 11SD, which covers 180,723 square feet, will accommodate a greatly expanded skydiving center. This 20-year lease is currently inactive and will become effective when Mile-Hi breaks ground on construction of the new facility.

It is important to understand that Mile-Hi Skydiving aims to be one of the biggest skydiving centers in the country. Currently, it operates several jump planes concurrently, including two very noisy de Havilland Twin Otters. When Mile-Hi expands, presumably after the economy recovers just a bit more, we can all look forward to hearing several more jump planes operating concurrently. This news should be alarming to anyone who cares about their quality of life and property values.

Longmont city government, how transparent are you really?

The following address was presented to the Longmont City Council at its Tuesday, July 17, 2012 session.

Photo by FreeRangeLongmont.com

Chris Rodriguez – wrong for the Airport Advisory Board

I would like to speak to you about transparency in government and the internet.

A couple months ago the Longmont Airport Facebook site posted a message about Mile-Hi Skydiving sending their critics bumper stickers reading “I Love Airplane Noise”. This website is unofficial – meaning that the content is not managed by city staff. I was curious to know who’s behind the proverbial curtain. That content would seem inappropriate if it came from a city official. Tim Barth, the airport manager, said that he didn’t know who manages the site, but he was certain that it was no one connected with the city.

As it turns out Chris Rodriguez manages that website. On May 10th he wrote that members of “Quiet Skies” had demanded the website be deleted. As the leader of Quiet Skies, I can assure you that is an outright lie. What could be his motivation for making this claim? For the record, the Mile-Hi jump planes are creating a very real public noise nuisance. But with ethical leadership, there can be peace between the airport and the local community.

So, who is Chris Rodriguez? You may recall his recent editorial criticizing the anti-fracking petition that’s being circulated. He is a blogger and activist who manages the LongmontPolitics website where he refers to the “lefty loonies”. On his LightningRod blog he encouraged harassment of the “pitchfork vigilantes”, including myself, who dared to complain about the jump plane noise.

But more importantly, Chris Rodriguez serves as the Chairman of the Longmont Airport Advisory Board. That board meets right here in these chambers, and he sits right there where the mayor sits. As a quasi public official, he holds an influential position over airport policies that affect the community.

He has every right, as an individual, to advocate for special interests and say whatever he believes, no matter how disconnected from reality. But Chris Rodriguez has no business serving on the Airport Advisory Board.

Gibbs gives Jr. a spanking for lying

Maybe it’s the thin air

You, the pesky commoner, have no right to expect a high quality of life, according to Benjamin C. Harper Jr. (Open Forum, May 1 and June 29). Stop “sniveling” about the constant jump plane noise. When you “green stalwarts” feel compelled to speak up about the health and nuisance concerns associated with fracking, just zip it. In his view, we should all gladly live with these inconveniences “in the spirit of coexistence” so that businesses may operate with unbridled freedom. I heartily disagree. The burden of accommodation should be placed where it rightly belongs, on the industry — not on the backs of ordinary citizens.

Mr. Harper’s derisive and inaccurate comments have one aim: to silence critics of the airport and the oil and gas industry. And he gets it wrong on all counts. First, there is no effort to “shut down” Mile-Hi Skydiving. The Quiet Skies citizen group that I represent has repeatedly asked the city to adopt reasonable regulations aimed at curbing the excessive noise. So far the city has failed miserably in that regard.

Second, Mr. Harper states that the city of Longmont, the entity that owns and operates the airport, has no authority to determine whether the airport is expanded. Nonsense. The city has exclusive authority over whether to allow airport expansion.

And finally, he repeats the well-worn lie that only three people are really bothered by the jump plane noise.

We have worked hard to achieve a congenial solution to the jump plane noise nuisance, so far to no avail. A similar scenario has played out with fracking, an issue with truly major consequences.

You, the voting public, can stand up for local quality of life issues by voting out the Longmont City Council members who have no idea what it means to be a true public servant.

Reckless helicopter

Enstrom 480

5 passenger 400HP turbine-powered, 8′ wide x 30′ long, 3000+ lbs – this is not a ‘small helicopter’

Imagine a scenario where you are enjoying a lovely backyard gathering on Memorial Day.  You begin to hear the distinctively loud thump-thump of helicopter propellers approaching your home.  Suddenly, a helicopter appears over the treetops and hovers just above the powerlines in your back yard.  This may sound unbelievable, but it really happened – and it was alarming.

At 6 pm a black helicopter with red markings did just that.  It came so close that I could see the pilot’s face.   I was able to track the aircraft on web track (webtrak.bksv.com/den) and verify that it landed at  Longmont’s Vance Brand airport.  I got in my car and drove the 8 miles to the airport to have a little chat with the pilot, but when I arrived the copter and pilot were nowhere to be found.

This isn’t the first incident where this Enstrom 480B* helicopter has harassed our neighborhood**.  Fortunately, this time we were able to record the aircraft’s N number and identify the operator, which is based at the Longmont airport. I filed a formal complaint with the FAA, feeling confident that the matter would be handled appropriately.  Instead, Jack Muldoon at the FAA informed me that the copter was not in violation of any rules.  According to the FAA, helicopters are not held to the same altitude restrictions as fixed-wing aircraft.  Over populated areas, airplanes must fly 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet – but not helicopters.

The voluntary measures currently in place to minimize impacts from aircraft operations are not sufficient.  A small number of pilots seem unconcerned about how their conduct affects local residents.  The solution is fairly simple – adopt reasonable and mandatory regulations aimed at protecting the local community from excessive aircraft noise and reckless pilots.


* N481SH owned by Doug Lyle of Lyle Aviation, 7733 N. 73rd St., Longmont, CO 80503. Current photo.

** Flight Path of N481SH from webtrak. Note: altitudes are estimated, time frame size is 15 seconds, hovers of under 10 seconds are not apparent.

*** corrected weight of helicopter to 3000 lbs as listed here.

Scepticism exists over economic benefit of airport runway extension

The following was addressed to Longmont City Council on March 14,2011, in response to the presentation of the final three chapters of the Airport Master Plan. This Airport Master Plan is controversial because of the inclusion of a runway extension at Vance Brand Airport. In addition, an ongoing controversy exists over the noise generated by Mile-Hi Skydiving by their dawn to dusk operation during good weather.

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport 11-2-2011

I would like to comment on the airport master plan and urge you to remove the runway extension from the plan. I believe the runway extension will increase airplane traffic and result in more environmental impacts, especially noise.

A major justification for the airport expansion is that it will create jobs. Chapter 8 of the master plan, titled “Airport Economic Impacts” summarizes the economic benefits of the airport on the region’s economy.

For example, “In 2010 the airport supported an estimated 257 jobs in Colorado that earned a total of $5.3 million.” First, these jobs are not necessarily in Longmont. And second, if you do the math that works out to an average salary of $20,622 annually. The scope of the master plan is limited and does not provide any context for these figures.

Chapter 8 devotes a lot of attention to Mile-Hi Skydiving Center – as they are one of the top two employers. The report states “In 2010, the payroll and benefits at each of these companies exceeded $100,000.” Is that a lot? Does the economic benefit justify the cost to the community of living under a blanket of noise? Let’s put the $100,000 payroll in perspective.

For comparison, Chapter 8 mentions a few specific companies in Longmont – IBM, Seagate, Intel and Amgen. These companies employ skilled workers. The average salary for a software engineer is about $100,000 – for one employee. A healthy economy relies on a diverse employment base, but higher salaries generate a bigger impact within the local economy.

Consider also the new Covidien Research and Innovation Center located in Gunbarrel. Covidien employs 1,800 skilled workers locally. They chose to locate in Boulder County because “The culture of innovation here is second to none.” These are the businesses that will lead to economic prosperity. They don’t require being next door to an airport and they don’t rely on government subsidies to remain viable.

The way to build a strong economy in Longmont is by providing a high quality of life, and attracting manufacturing and high-tech companies – not by extending the runway.

Quieter skies are needed

Editor’s Note: Ms. Gibbs presented the following to Longmont City Council at it’s Regular Session on Tuesday, November 8, 2011.

Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

Twin Otter at Longmont Vance Brand Airport

My home is located in Gunbarrel, about 8 miles from Vance Brand airport. I’m here to speak in support of the Citizens for Quiet Skies and for the proposed review of Mile-Hi Skydiving operations. which Mr. Bowker spoke about.

I would like to welcome the new council and also commend Mr. Bagley for publicly acknowledging that Mile-Hi is imposing a serious noise problem. In view of increasing public concern and frustration, I believe that council members who continue to deny there is a problem will be perceived as out of touch. You have the opportunity to be heroes among the citizens of Longmont and neighbors like me by facing this issue head on.

There is sufficient justification at this time to conduct a review and the resulting noise abatement strategy may necessarily include multiple components.

For example, section 4.4 of the Mile-Hi Specialty-Based Operator lease provides an example of a possible restriction aimed at reducing the impact of Mile-Hi Skydiving operations: To paraphrase, it states that as a result of meetings to evaluate their impact to the community the City will “determine if any adjustments or limitations are necessary to the skydiving operation, including but not limited to reduced hours of operation.”

During my research, I came across an October 2006 City Council Communication. In part, this memo discussed “community concerns and impacts” and sought to compare Mile-Hi Skydiving with “similar skydive operators”. The memo goes on to say that “Deland Municipal Airport, located in Deland Florida, is one of the few public airports that has a skydive operation similar to Longmont.” The DeLand skydive operator there also has multiple aircraft, including a Twin Otter. Of course, I was interested to learn more so I called Nik Landgraf, the Deland Airport Manager.

I asked him about the Twin Otter and whether it generated a lot of complaints. He told me that the flight training school generated more complaints and that the skydiving company had voluntarily installed what’s called a hush kit to reduce noise on their Twin Otter. The particular kit is manufactured by MT Propeller and costs about $100,000 to install.

Also, as a result of community concerns, the City of Deland commissioned a formal noise study to provide objective data and assist with their efforts. I agree with their approach. As an analytical person, I believe we can make better choices by evaluating real data – a noise study is an important component of our proposed review and I hope you will give it serious consideration.

Among the conclusions provided in the report is an outline of several FAA-approved measures that the City, as the airport proprietor, has direct authority to implement. One example taken from their report is “Adopting mandatory restrictions based on aircraft noise characteristics.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Otter be a better way

You'll be hearing this ALL WEEKEND, get ready

This weekend Mile-Hi Skydiving will be aiming to set a Colorado State record for a formation skydive linking 70+ skydivers together in the air at one time. Instead of the usual 3 aircraft in operation, they will be using 5.

I’m sure that Mile-Hi Skydiving and the participating skydivers feel that they are striving for a laudable and daring stunt. But for thousands of Boulder County residents who live in Longmont, Niwot, Gunbarrel and beyond, it promises to be another weekend filled with obnoxious, tormenting airplane noise. Sure, I realize that some folks may actually “like” the reverberating sound of the Mile-Hi Twin Otter – just like some people like the sound of incessantly barking dogs and leaf blowers. But for most of us, enjoying the great outdoors on the weekend in relative peace and quiet is a simple pleasure that we truly appreciate. For many of us, the rural character of Boulder County enticed us to live here.

So, when you’re outside this weekend, take a moment to listen. That loud plane circling continuously high above is Mile-Hi Skydiving. They do not give a hoot about the noise they are creating nor your quality of life. To learn more about our efforts to address this problem, please contact us at SayNoToSkydiving@yahoo.com.

“Imagine listening to your neighbor mow their lawn — for 12 hours a day!”

Fearless lawnmowers from the sky?

Mile-Hi Skydiving noise reaches far beyond the Airport Influence Zone and Teresa Foster’s neighborhood. I live in Gunbarrel, eight miles from Vance Brand Airport and several miles outside the AIZ.

According to Mile-Hi’s website, its fleet of aircraft has the capacity to “rocket” jumpers to 18,000 feet in 10 minutes and “drop 100 jumpers per hour,” resulting in more than 35,000 jumps annually. Unfortunately, this thrilling entertainment ruins the quality of life for those of us on the ground. Starting before 8 a.m. and going until sunset (including Saturday and Sunday), their fleet is in full swing. The Twin Otter with blue markings circles around Niwot and as far south as my home in Gunbarrel Estates. The constant, loud hum travels for miles and at times is deafening. We cannot enjoy time in our yard or on the extensive trail system and open space. Imagine listening to your neighbor mow their lawn — for 12 hours a day!

The noise from the Mile-Hi skydiving planes imposes an unacceptable nuisance on thousands of nearby residents. Unfortunately, pleas to the City Council for relief continue to fall on deaf ears. Moreover, they are seeking to extend the runway, which will allow larger and noisier planes — how insulting to the ordinary residents of Longmont and surrounding communities.

As the Vance Brand Airport proprietor, it is the city’s responsibility to address this urgent problem. Appropriate mitigation efforts would include installing acoustical monitoring equipment to collect air traffic data, rescinding or restricting the lease with Mile-Hi Skydiving and abandoning the runway expansion initiative. If the city continues to ignore us, we will work diligently to elect members who genuinely represent their constituents instead of well-funded special interests. You can learn more about this effort by contacting me at kimberly_gibbs@yahoo.com.