Heber Valley Officials Discuss Airport Master Plan Concerns, Possibilities
At an interlocal meeting with Heber City and Wasatch County Wednesday, local officials discussed the Heber Valley Airport.
Heber Airport Manager Travis Biggs gave an update to Heber City, Wasatch County and Daniel Town, as well as to members of the public. He touched on points the city will focus on as it tweaks the master plan for years to come.
Right now, it’s classified as a non-compliant C2 airport. That means its safety features are not up to Federal Aviation Administration requirements for planes classified as C2. The airport’s facilities are for B2 airplanes, which are generally corporate planes that carry about 10 passengers. C2 planes are also smaller than commercial jets but are faster than B2 planes and require wider runways.
Biggs said the city can’t influence or control which planes use the airport.
“We’re a federally funded, public-use airport. It’s just like the semis coming through town. If you don’t like the semis coming through town, I understand, but they have the legal right to do it. It’s the same way with jets. Some people don’t like jets, but they have a right; it’s a public use, it’s federally funded,” he said.
Because C2 planes use the airport frequently, the city has to upgrade to meet FAA safety standards for them.
According to City Councilwoman Rachel Kahler, the city’s entered into 39 binding agreements with the federal government since 1991. Those agreements provide funding but require the city adhere to airport regulations.
Biggs said that over the next decade it’ll keep modifying the master plan to accommodate the valley’s needs.
“We can’t control certain things. This, we have control over, and it’s important that we get it right. This is where we can make a difference, and we can do things that are beneficial to the public, or we can just do things to make money, or we can do whatever we want, but this is why the locals do have a voice, because this is important, and what we do with this will affect the future of this valley forever,” he said.
City Manager Matt Brower said the years-long master planning process will involve taking lots of input. Eventually, the city will come up with proposals and narrow down options for the council to approve a final plan.
The council said it won’t consider allowing commercial air traffic. Brower and Biggs explained that’s not in any parties’ interests for economic, logistical or physical reasons.
The primary limitation is that commercial planes don’t have the clearance to fly safely in the Heber Valley without crashing into mountains.
The city also intends to keep the airport within its current 400-acre footprint. C2 requirements indicate it’ll need to widen its runway but not necessarily make it longer.
The new plan will likely need to expand runway protection zones, or buffer areas to keep planes at a safe distance from structures.
Daniel Town Councilwoman Merry Duggin said the current proposal would interfere with Daniel’s plans in a triangular lot at the southern tip of the runway between Highway 189 and 3000 South.
“That is an area the town of Daniel was hoping to at some point convert to a commercial zone,” she said. “As you know, we get much more tax revenue from commercial than you do from residential, and that was one of our future plans. Now, if the FAA comes in and we end up having to do this, they have huge restrictions on what can be allowed to happen on those properties, and it would be a huge detriment to our population. We’re over 1,000 people out there, so we’re very concerned.”
Biggs said Duggin’s input was just what people working on the new proposal need to know about. He said there’ll be many more public meetings ahead to bring more issues to the table.