Tag Archive for Vance Brand Airport

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.

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.

“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.

Congratulations, Ruby and Chris

God's creatures were here first, not airplanes.

Each year Wild Earth Guardians reports on the status of Prairie Dogs. As part of this year’s “Report from the Burrow: Forecast of the Prairie Dog,” Wild Earth Guardians assessed the state of prairie dog populations by evaluating the performance of government agencies responsible for prairie dog protection.

This tool serves as a means for the public to hold state and federal government institutions accountable for the legal obligation to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.

The Federal Aviation Administration received a failing grade. The following is the evaluation by Dr. Nicole J. Rosmarino. It cites the Longmont battle with the FAA over the prairie dogs at Vance Brand Airport. And it honors Longmont’s Ruby Bowman and her husband Chris Boardman for their efforts, however futile against the power of a federal agency, to save them.

In response to the Hudson River airplane crash in New York City, caused by a collision with migratory Canada geese (not resident wildlife), the FAA went on the offensive against prairie dogs. The agency considers prairie dog burrows, the prairie dogs themselves, and other animals – from coyotes to birds – that are attracted to prairie dog towns to be hazards. As a result of FAA’s no prairie dog edict, prairie dogs have been killed at airports in Albuquerque (NM), Santa Fe (NM), Flagstaff (AZ), Telluride (CO), Longmont (CO), and likely many other locations. In one instance in August 2010, a large thriving Gunnison’s prairie dog colony was destroyed at FAA’s command at the Sunport Airport in Albuquerque, and Wildlife Services … poisoned some 14,000 burrows. This was despite the hard work for many years by prairie dog relocators Prairie Dog Pals, Prairie Ecosystems Associates, Ruby Bowman, and Christopher Boardman to regularly assist in airport management by moving prairie dogs to safe locations. The city of Longmont also worked very hard to implement non-lethal control, only to see their efforts overturned by the FAA requirements.

Free Range Longmont and others in our community extend a heartfelt thank you to Ruby and Chris for their tireless efforts on behalf of prairie dogs and congratulate you for your mention in this critical report.

The black-tailed prairie dog is an ecological keystone species that deserves federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Several actions should be taken by federal agencies to preserve prairie dogs and their habitat, among which are:

• Granting prompt, range-wide protection of all unlisted species of prairie dogs—the
black-tailed, white-tailed, and Gunnison’s—under the Endangered Species Act;
• Banning poisoning and shooting of any prairie dogs, especially on public lands;
• Immediately banning Rozol and Kaput-D prairie dog toxicants;
• Supporting active efforts to prevent plague outbreaks;
• Prohibiting destruction of prairie dog habitat on public lands from oil and gas
drilling, off-road vehicles, and other harmful land uses;
• Eliminating subsidies that contribute to habitat destruction and prairie dog killing;