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Monday, May 02, 2011

Up Date on the Issue of Heliports in the Ogden Valley, and An Appeal for You All to Join the Planning Process

By Lee Schussman, Eden

Tuesday night (4-26-11) the Ogden Valley Planning Commission tabled a decision on an application to remove “heliport” from the CV-2 zoning ordinance. The commissioners requested their staff to gather more information, and they plan to study the issue and to re-address it at their next work- session meeting on June 7, 2011.

Everyone who has an interest in the issue of helicopters in the Ogden Valley should attend the OVPC meeting on Tuesday, June 7.

Here is a brief summary of the developments in this important issue:

After 15 months of study and deliberation the OVPC rejected an application for a heliport at the Red Moose Lodge in Eden. The Weber County Commissioners up-held that decision on April 5, 2011. That action effectively blocked the possibility of a heliport in that location at this time.

After participating as much as possible in that decision-making process, Dave Holmstrom and I worried that, since “heliport” was still included on the list of conditioned uses under CV-2, anyone could, at any time, file another application for a CUP for a heliport in any CV-2 site. We therefore needed to press the issue, and we thought the best way to do that quickly would be to submit an application to remove heliport from CV-2. That application was submitted last month.

The OVPC staff reviewed that application and recommended that it not be approved. At the meeting of the OVPC last Tuesday, we were allowed the opportunity to present our application. This is a summary of part of the discussion:

We stated that, in filing the application to remove heliport from CV-2, we had two major goals:

1- to try to prevent someone from filing an application for another heliport in a CV-2 zone in the near future.
2- to try to catalyze the start of a process that would eventuate in a policy to best deal with heliports in the Ogden Valley.

We made the following points (with thanks to Ron Tymcio, Eden, for much background work):

1- There are 17 CV-2 sites. All are on the valley floor. We tried to support our contention that none of the 17 sites are suitable for a heliport.

2-The Weber County Zoning Ordinances have been changed in the last year making it now much easier for any applicant to be granted a CUP than has been the case in the past.

3- Noise issues remain a significant concern, and will only grow in the future. Many areas of the country are already struggling with problems associated with non-military helicopter use in residential areas.

4- As the helicopter designation now exists in CV-2, it would be difficult to place any restrictions (such as frequencies, flight routes, times of flights, destinations, etc.) on that CUP. Enforcement could also be difficult.

5-We could discover no documented reasons why heliport was ever placed in the CV-2. None of the other 186 uses now permitted or conditioned under CV-2 could ever make as much of an impact impact on the Ogden Valley as could a heliport

We concluded that heliports are a very unique and specialized use, and as such they require special attention. We urged the commissioners to remove heliports from the current CV-2 so that an application for a CUP (in those current CV-2 sites) could not be filed in the near future. We also expressed the hope that this discussion could serve as a catalyst for a carefully planned process to study heliports in the Ogden Valley--a process that would involve public input, careful research, and thoughtful discussion so as to arrive at the best possible decisions as to where, when, if, and how heliports would be sited in the Ogden Valley.

During the presentation, Mr. Rob Scott, Director of the Planning Office, stated that, since an application that could result in the changing of the CUP ordinance was in progress, his office could hold the processing of any CUP applications for a heliport pending the outcomes of the ordinance changes. (During subsequent discussion, the legal council supported Mr. Scott and added that, although the county would still be obligated to accept applications for any CUP, the processes to grant that CUP could be held.)

We viewed that as very welcome information that largely achieved our first goal.

In spite of the lateness of the hour, and in spite of having spent several hours working on other difficult issues, the commissioners devoted significant time and energy to discussing our application.

They welcomed our input and presentation. They urged us, and all of the valley residents, to continue to be actively participating in this (and other) issues. They stated that they would make accommodations for their deliberations to be open and transparent and that public input would be scheduled at some of their meetings.

They did not think that the future resolution of this issue was clear enough to vote “yes-or-no” on removing heliport from CV-2 at this time. So a final vote on our application was tabled. We feel it was a very positive discussion and a reasonable decision.

That decision (plus the reassurance that it is very unlikely that anyone could at this time be granted a CUP in the current CV-2 areas) enables us all to proceed with the next phases of this endeavor: data gathering, further analysis, public input, and then the development of a reasoned policy. 

Commissioner Warburton stressed that public input does have, and will continue to have, a very large impact on the development of this important policy.

The OVPC will have a work session on Tuesday, June 7. (Preparatory to that meeting, the staff was requested to gather more information.) At that meeting, the OVPC will begin the task of developing an over-all policy with regard to heliports in the Ogden Valley. Chairman Siegel announced that their deliberations will be open to the public. (Public input may be allowed at this meeting. But if not at this meeting certainly at future meetings.) All Ogden Valley residents who have an interest in this issue should plan to attend the OVPC meeting on Tuesday, June 7th; as this is a time that we can start to really make a difference in establishing an over-all policy. Please put your thoughts together and plan to attend that work session.

During our discussions with fellow residents, these are some of the types of questions that have been asked and that we would hope to be addressed during some phases of this process:

Where should heliports be placed?
How many heliports do we need?
Should heliports be placed on the valley floor?
Should heliports only be placed above 6200 feet?
How much noise is a tolerable level?
How can we best support a business for heli-skiing and balance the community good?
Re heli-skiing destinations: can operators be obligated to set them up to ensure the safety of other skiers in the destination area?
Are there other business or personal uses anticipated for heliports—eg: sight seeing, transportation, hunting access, timber cutting, transportation,  etc.?
Can conditions (flight times, flight paths, numbers of flights per day, etc) be placed to mitigate concerns?
Should our efforts be restricted to heliports or should the include fixed wing aircraft?
If heliports are placed in the RDD-1 zones, does that mean they can use Nordic Valley/Wolf Mt? If not, is that resort being unfairly being discriminated against?
Should we include heliports at all in any zoned areas? 
Are there sites in F-10 and F40 zones that can be used?
Is a CUP needed for the destination sites?
Do we want to zone land heliports so as to support regular helicopter service between Snow Basin and the SLC area? If so, should Powder Mountain and or Nordic Valley/Wolf Mountain be included in that zoning?
Can we learn from the heli-skiing operation based out of SnowBird?
Sun Valley has a full airport that is basically in town. Should we study that facility to see what they have done well and what has been problematic?
Can CPU’s be issued that restrict who/what types of helicopters can use them?

Please put your thoughts together and please attend the next OVPC meeting on June 7, 2011 to hear the deliberations and possibly to take place in the discussion.



What possible justification could the "planning" (obviously a euphemism) staff have had to recommend the proposal's denial? Methinks we are in need of a little housecleaning down there, or at least some retraining of the whole bunch, including the Commissioners, by someone other than the Utah League of Cities and Towns (aka Developers and Realtors).

The Panther said...

It is no secret that the Weber County Planning guys are in the pockets of the developer/builder cabal. They have been for years. All Bischoff had to do was give an order and most of those guys jumped to the marching beat. It is pretty bad that we cannot seem to have any people in County government looking out for the