Expansion plan out of character
Why are Pitkin County commissioners master planning for the largest airport expansion in our airport’s history? They are considering an enclosed commercial terminal of 80,000 square feet, complete with parking structures, 200,000 square feet of heated hangar space, a full parallel taxi-way on the west side of the runway, including a 400,000-square-foot parking area.
According to one source, it doubles the size of our commercial terminal, doubles the size of aircraft parking, and is a tenfold increase in heated hangar space. It hardly follows our Canary Initiative, which the commissioners have endorsed.
Just because Pitkin County has received federal funding for part of this expansion and expense does not follow that we, as citizens and residents, who live, work and vote in this valley, are willing to bear the burden of increased noise problems, air pollution and danger to both those on the ground and in the air with increased air congestion. We are geographically limited at our Pitkin County airport. Do we want our airport to be known as one of the busiest, most dangerous of small towns? I think not.
Commissioner Rachel Richards has said: “We are not just master planning for the next 20 years, but the next 50 years.” However, who can predict our needs in 50 years? Transportation plans and needs will change dramatically by then.
Just look at the technological revolution; it changes every year. If you bought a computer five years ago, it’s an antique by today’s standards. Our needs and demands could change on an annual basis in the airline sector. One thing for sure: Our Aspen population has hovered at 6,000 and has not changed in 50 years. So it follows, why should we master plan for an airport the size of Santa Barbara’s airport, which serves a population of over 600,000 residents?
If you design such a large expanded airport, more private jets and base companies will come, and of course the hazards accompanying it. Should we really be selling the west side of our airport this summer to private base companies? Is this what we really want?
Our commissioners should be following our Aspen Area Community Plan: steering development towards a sustainable economy; leaving a small carbon footprint. Hopefully our jets will be less polluting in 30 to 50 years.
We should only plan 20 years out, based on what our residents and public have outlined in the Aspen Area Community Plan. Relying only upon the advice of paid consultants, who stand to benefit the most financially from this enormous master plan, is tantamount to placing blind faith in special interest groups and ignoring what this community stands for, wants and needs.
I hope our commissioners will listen to their constituents, who ultimately bear the burden and negative consequences of this outlandish new proposed master plan.
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