Heber Council Rescinds Previous Actions To Make Way For Airport Master Plan Update

Heber City council recently rescinded some previous council actions at the Heber Valley Airport in order to clear the way for a new Airport Master Plan process.

Read the original story at KPCW.org.

In 2017 Heber City adopted new airport minimum standards which would allow for a second Field Base Operator or FBO to be at the airport as well as the creation of a self-fuel service operation. Within a month after passing the airport minimum standards the Heber Airport’s only Field Base Operator OK3 Air sued the city.

Since that time the city and OK3 Air have been in legal battles. At the last Heber City Council meeting the council rescinded the 2017 airport minimum standards in favor of the previous airport minimum standards in order to create a new master plan.

As we have reported the latest Airport Manager report emphasized that the Master plan outcome is not predetermined and is not a license for expansion. City Manager Matt Brower explains why rescinding the 2017 minimum standards are necessary.

“In order to achieve these objectives city staff believes it is necessary to eliminate or reduce recent disputes regarding proposed development and new commercial aeronautical activities at the airport. In particular the adoption of new minimum standards in 2017 and consideration of a second FBO, a new commercial self-service fuel operation, and other new commercial operations have led to considerable litigation and controversy resources in attention from the underlying issues facing the airport and the community.”

In the same meeting the council also placed a moratorium, suspending all consideration of development and new commercial activities until the completion of a new Master Plan.

“City staff believes that these actions will ensure maximum engagement from the public, airport users, and service providers in the master plan and produce a road map for the orderly and well considered development of the airport for the benefit of all stakeholders. City staff also believe that these four actions will ensure that the focus of public discussion will be on the future of this airport rather than on past concerns and disputes. City staff hopes and expects that all of the suspended and resend it actions will be reconsidered as a thoughtful transparent manner through the master planning process.”

The decision did not come without pushback. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association opposed the action. The organization says it’s the world’s largest community of pilots. Executive Vice President for the association, Ken Mead, wrote a letter to the Heber City Council. The letter says in part.

“We know that OK3, the incumbent and monopoly position FBO, has sued the City in an effort to retain its position and protect its own commercial interests. Notwithstanding this, the City Council’s responsibility is to represent the public interest and run this public-use airport in a manner that complies with grant assurances and promotes a competitive environment that will better ensure reasonable and fair pricing for users.”

The letter also questioned the city’s claim that the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA supported the plan. At the council meeting Brower shared a legal memo prepared by legal counsel that has spoken with FAA representatives. The memo states that the FAA supports the city council action given the particular facts and given council’s commitment to complete the Master Plan in a timely manner.

“Let me emphasize this, we have consulted considerably with the FAA. They are in agreement with both these resolutions, with the understanding that we advance this master plan as expeditiously as we possibly can.”

The FAA further advises that the Master Plan should not consider rates and charges or the financial feasibility of a second Field Base Officer, as both actions are prohibited by Master Plans. It does say however that the city can look at rates and charges independently of, but simultaneously with, the Master Plan. With the respect to the site for a second FBO, the Master Plan can evaluate the feasibility of the location.

In other airport related items, After 24-months as Heber Airport Manager, Dennis Godfrey accepted a new position in Boulder Colorado. The Assistant Airport Manager Travis Biggs will be recommended for promotion to the Airport’s Manager at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Heber Valley Artisan Cheese held their 2nd annual Ice Sculptures Exhibition this weekend. Several local businesses sponsored the sculptures being displayed. There were also two different ice carving demonstrations. The event was free to the public.

The annual event began last year when Carolee Kohler saw ice sculpting on a Hallmark movie and thought it would be a fun idea for their farm. They are also considering a woodcarving event.

According to Lindsey Strother, social media and events coordinator, each sculpture takes between 1-3 hours to carve. “We contacted Amazing Ice Creations back in November, and we reached out to local companies to sponsor the ice sculptures,” she said. “Yesterday morning around 9 am, they came in a massive truck and dropped them all off for us, and we set them up.”

Along with the ice sculptures, sponsors receive a sign and canopy for the display and social media marketing. The sponsors decide what they want to have sculpted. After the event, they can take the ice sculptures and display them at their businesses. The creations normally last a couple of weeks. Some will be left in the field and can be viewed throughout the week.

The ice this year included Olaf, company logos, animals, and other items. Darron Kingston, the sculptor, has carved ice for over 10 years with his dad. According to Kingston, “I like sculptures that give me a challenge. Here, for example, my favorite was the lumberjack.” One of his favorite past creations was a 9-foot bear.

Grant Kohler, owner of Heber Valley Artisan Cheese, explained, “We decided to do something that was free and something that people could just get out and come and enjoy. Especially this year with Covid, it seems like Januarys are slow months. People are looking for things to be able to get outside and do.” He continued, “Businesses pay in and buy the sculptures, we have them sculpted, and then we just let people come and enjoy them.” Kohler estimated around 3,000 to 4,000 people will stop by the event.

The dairy farm also offers cheese-making classes and tours of their new robotic barn. “The tours are everyday except Sunday,” according to Kohler. “People hayride over, intermingle with the cows, see the barn and amenities, and watch the cows be milked. The cows will literally go get milked on their own.” Tickets for the tours and other events are available on the Heber Valley Artisan Cheese website: https://hebervalleyartisancheese.com/.