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

Apr 12, 2019

Aerial view of Heber City
Credit Heber City

Heber City council recently rescinded some previous council actions at the Heber Valley Airport in order to clear the way for a new Airport Master Plan process.

In 2017 Heber City adopted new airport minimum standards which would allow for a second Fixed 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 Fixed 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 At the last Heber City Council meeting the council rescinded the 2017 airport minimum standards in favor of the previous airport minimum standards in order to create a new master plan.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. General Counsel and 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 Fixed 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.