Heber City is updating their Airport Master Plan, as part of that process the city is inviting the community to participate in the plan starting with the public Kickoff meeting Wednesday from 6:00-8:00 pm at Heber Valley Elementary School.
Heber City Mayor Kellen Potter says that the current airport master plan is about 16 years old, about six years older than recommended.
“Like any business you want to know where you’re going,” Potter said. “Do we want to preserve some land for future activities? Do we want to try and bring more businesses and business services to the airport for the planes that are coming? There’s just a lot of questions around it, and it’s helpful to have that blueprint. So, everyone knows what’s going to happen and what the land uses are, those type of things.”
The Heber City Airport has been a part of the valley since 1947, however recent growth in the Wasatch Back including the Heber Valley has increased traffic at the airport causing the Federal Aviation Administration to look at the safety of the airport as is. Mayor Potter says that the results of the Master Plan update are not yet determined, and the city is asking for citizens help to participate in the process.
“This literally is an open process,” Potter continued. “We do know that we have a lot of planes coming that are a higher level. We are a B2 airport and there are C airplanes that are landing. The FAA standards that we have committed to keep have asked us that if we have over 500 of those type airplanes taking off and landing that we would increase our footprint, our runway—whatever those standards are—to accommodate those things safely. However, we do have some barriers around the airport footprint. I don’t know how it’s all going to play out. We have been told that it’s possible and likely that we would lose funding if we’re not keeping the standard, so that’s why it’s very controversial.”
Some citizens have voiced concerns that safety upgrades at the airport could reroute nearby highway 189 and impact homes and property surrounding the airport.
“There have been designs made using the FAA’s standards, measurements, everything, and it would possibly do that. But I still think there’s room for compromise,” Potter explained. “There are other airports that have had to compromise because of things around there. We don’t have the authority to take homes in another jurisdiction. At the end of that runway is the city of Daniel and Heber City can’t come in and say, ‘Hey Daniel, we’re going to take those homes there.’ So, there’s a lot of unanswered questions and that’s why we’re going to go through this process.”
The project is launching during the busiest time of the year for the airport, that being the Sundance Film Festival. Those opposed to increased airport activity point to noise and air pollution as well as a perception that the related economic activities only benefit Park City while the burden lies on Heber City and its residents.
On the other side some point to economic benefits to businesses adjacent to the airport including support services, ground transportation service, restaurants and lodging for pilots.
Mayor Potter says that the Airport Master Plan update will try to get to the bottom of that issue.
“We will see some real numbers and try to get a better assessment of what is the economic impact of that airport on Heber City,” Potter said. “That will come out through this process as well.”
Whatever the result of the Airport Master Plan process, Mayor Potter says that dissolving the airport entirely is an unlikely option.
“When we, in the past gotten money from the FAA, we signed a document that has grant assurances,” Potter continued. “One of those grant assurances is that we will continue operating this airport in perpetuity. I don’t think Heber City has the ability to go up against the federal government in breaking those grants assurances. So, from everything I’ve been told from attorneys, that’s not realistic to say we’ll just shut it down.”
The meeting begins Wednesday at 6:00 starting with an hour of presentation from the Mayor, an FAA representative and engineer consultants. The second hour of the open house will include stations for citizens to walk through to obtain more information and provide comments. Heber Valley Elementary school is located at 730 South 600 West in Heber. The Airport Master Plan website address is HeberValleyFlightpath.com