With Lawsuit Threatened, TEX Curfew Debaters Square Off
by Marta Tarbell
Mar 23, 2011 | 3522 views | 9 9 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Should the year-round operating hours of the Telluride Airport be changed, by more than three hours on either end, so that planes can land and take off from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.?

This is the question before the Telluride Regional Airport Authority Board of Directors Thursday morning, when it meets at the Telluride Fire District meeting room at 10 a.m. to decide how best to act upon a subcommittee’s March 10 recommendation that airport operating hours be extended beyond the 28-year-old airport’s historic “sun-up to sundown” schedule.

This week, the TRAA board was asked to delay making that decision in a letter signed by San Miguel County Board of Commissioners Chair Joan May, requesting that it “defer any action on the report that would extend TEX’s current operating hours until the BOCC and the TRAA board members have had the opportunity to meet and discuss the matter.”

“BOCC has historically been a required co-signor on TRAA’s FAA grant award agreements,” May observed in the two-page letter. “We hope to continue this relationship.”

May asked a range of questions from what “specific change” in operating hours was being considered and “specifically, how was the 9 p.m. curfew determined,” for more data regarding financial aspects of the decision, and for specific information about requirements concerning the airport’s “annual $1 million in FAA Entitlement Funds” the airport now receives.

“This threat is meant to intimidate the TRAA into taking no action and wasting more time,” blasted Telluride real estate broker Matthew Hintermeister, a member of the Facebook group, “I Support a Healthy Telluride Regional Airport,” upon reading the letter.

A less velvet-gloved demand that the board desist was hand-delivered to the airport board and county on Tuesday, March 22, from the attorney for the group, No Night Flights Network.

As attorney Erin Johnson’s letter accompanying her 12-page “Verified Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief” made clear, this complaint would be filed immediately upon the “TRAA’s unilateral decision made on March 24, 2011, to change its hours of operation to include early morning and night flights outside of the current curfew restrictions.”

The group, as NoNightFlights.net, has taken to the internet as well, to further circulate its petition charging that “night flights will adversely impact our pristine environment, are inherently less safe and are in direct conflict with representations and promises made by the TRAA to the County Commissioners, to the airport’s neighbors and to the public at large,” and is offering colorful free bumper stickers to all signers.

Earlier that same day, County Attorney Steven Zwick had issued a legal memorandum opining that “the BOCC’s legal authority” to effect TEX operating hours, as established back in 1983, “was preempted by federal law,” even when the county land use decisions were made.

It “appears,” Zwick wrote in the memo, that the current FAA stance is that “local governments may not use their land use/zoning authority to regulate the expansion of airport facilities,” so that the county’s hands are effectively tied regarding airport curfew issues.

But could a determination that No Night Flights Network Plaintiffs would, as stated in the group’s complaint, “suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss and harm for which there is no adequate remedy at law” should aircraft be allowed “to land and take off at times outside of the current curfew restrictions,” be used to maintain existing TEX curfews?

TRAA subcommittee members and members of “I Support a Health Telluride Regional Airport” maintain the curfew expansion is necessary if the airport is to survive.

“We need to do everything we can to attract additional commercial flights,” report co-author Jon Dwight told The Watch last week.

The airport’s present curfew allows for both commercial and general aviation flights to extend from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, year-round, so that summer flights can land as late as 9 p.m., while winter flights terminate as early as 5:20 p.m. on the shortest days of the year.

Extended winter flights could allow commercial airlines at least two additional round-trip flights a day, and an overnight stay for early-morning next-day departures, extending travel schedules, increasing use of the airport and producing new revenues.

The FAA mandates the same operating hours must be extended to general aviation flights, as well.

“We are looking to extend them for both commercial and general aviation because we don’t believe we can separate out the two without a lot of issues,” Dwight told The Watch.

In addition to enabling the airport to meet its minimum enplanement threshold for the $1 million in federal funding, the report said the airport stands to net $235,000 in profits from commercial and general aviation fuel sales alone, just by operating until 9 p.m. between November and March.

In addition to gaining from the extended hours, the report suggested, the better air access would act as an incentive to draw tourism to Telluride, as opposed to competing resorts, and capture existing guest spending now diverted to grocery, liquor and sports stores in Montrose because of better commercial flight availability there.

“The benefits to the Telluride community from having both a commercial and general aviation airport less than 15 minutes away are considerable,” it states. “The negative impacts to the community are considered to be minimal.”

Despite the purported benefits of extended nighttime operations, No Night Flights Network, comprised largely of airport neighbors in the Aldasoro development, remains opposed because of concerns such as noise and light pollution and, above all, safety.

The TRAA has, in the meantime, moved Thursday's 10 a.m. meeting to the Telluride Fire Station’s meeting room, and joins the county in urging all interested parties to attend.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
March 25, 2011
PP: I agree with you about other "broken promises"; however, I've always strive to operate under the moral tenant that "two wrongs don't make a right".

If understand it correctly, the "promise" (curfew) to San Miguel County in order to issue the Special Use Permit and allow the airport to exist in the first place.

While I'm not a lawyer, I don't believe this promise would have to list each homeowner (past, present, or future) by name. It's applies to SMC and it's respective zoning. It allows residents to select and purchase property based upon acceptable use, but I pretty sure I don't have to fill you in on such details.

I also find it very interesting to have heard Riley in the past comment (to generally paraphrase) about enhancing the "year round marketplace" & fill in the seasonal imbalances ... to offer our children / next generation a viable opportunity to live and work here. While this might be a worthwhile goal, I do not believe it is necessarily a good thing to do so under the auspice of having broken promises to prior generations in order to do so. Where's the lesson to our children in that?
March 25, 2011

I always miss the boat on promises-I keep paying SS taxes because the return was promised to me-I wont get my money back.

The town promised the Hotel Telluride wont serve liquor next to the school-they have a full service restaurant with no parking. The school board said no alcohol would be allowed at the Palm and now they have a liquor licence.

The airport was built with contracts not promises-land use changes with time."The airport might not exist "? You obviously havnt been here long-the subdivision was built after the airport-who was the "promise"made to ? The people living here in2011 or the non existent homeowners of 1987 ?

There is a reason business is done with contracts-a man is as good as his word -and the biggest concept of all- is that life isnt fair !

Keep on typing the concept will come to you.

March 25, 2011
... hardly all of Telski, nor do I believe they're out to "get me". My guess/belief is it's probably just Riley and a handful of "players" who share his marketing paradigm.

It was smart for Riley to wait, it allows for the possibility of preserving "political capital" ... he will be able to point to this in the future and claim how he was willing to work with everyone.

PP: you really kind of miss the boat on the basics of "make a promise keep a promise" with respect to your earlier claim that anyone who bought property near the airport should expect noise. This is a red herring ... of course there will be noise, that's not the issue. Rather, it's the promise the airport made to have curfew ... had that promise never been made, we might not even be having this discussion (i.e. airport might not exist).

I don't care how many words you type or in what order, a promise is a promise. What's too difficult to understand about this concept?
March 25, 2011
pss. Correction-a pig farm stinks and the neighbors smell .
March 25, 2011
Yes FOM-

Im sure that all the workers at Telski are out to get you-after all they have nothing better to do , right ? Its quite a conspiracy that working people want to work for themselves -not just you.

If you were actually at the meeting you would know that the numbers were ten to one FOR the airport. Just because the unidentified vocal minority always gets their way around here doesn't mean that is right and just.

Rielly seconded jMays motion to extend comment- which undermined Telksi's position-I would call his move to be liked a bad business decision.

Then we have the TRAA board with no balls -they should have voted and this would be a non issue .

The sad thing is that we have county employees that live in Ridgway make commerce decisions for us.

I saw at least five county employees hanging out at the meeting being paid to be at work who were there to protect "their" property rights.Cheeper airport lots were created for working people-people that actually LIVE and WORK here.Now we should shut down the airport to increase their property values ?

There are regulations and rules in place for commerce,use and airports so we are protected from " a coup on the public will "-especially to protect us from the neighbors that move in next to the pig farm and complain that it smells.

Ps The anonymous group NNFN took signatures from Montrovians and anyone else that would sign their petition-isnt that what we want ?-Montrose voting to keep our tax dollars in Montrose-what a suprise. Maybe the Montrose airboard is paying the attorny to keep our dollars flowing to them ! Now that makes me feel green !
March 25, 2011
One thing I find EXTREMELY interesting is that this group (aka TRAA) is effectively launching a coup on the will of the public -- that being the mandate which allowed the airport to come into existence in the first place with the provision of a curfew -- all while this governing entity is not truly a DIRECTLY elected body & is at best an extended layer/proxy.

In my opinion, if the curfew is to be lifted, the only method which would even approach legitimacy on this front would to open the issue up to a county wide ballot initiative. However, my suspicion is that this body might believe they know "better" than the people they represent (indirectly) or will they simply ignore such a "request" (as if the people are now require to say "pretty please")?

The more I re-think Seth's Op Ed piece (cutting baby in half), the more I understand why once a basic foundation of trust has been breached it opens the door for staking out extreme positions & not ceding even an inch ... since even if that inch appears reasonable in itself ... it still allows for a "foot in the door" to take a future mile (or more).

Moreover, I believe it's at least apparent on the surface that Telski/Riley are players in this maneuver & I don't believe it's unreasonable in the future to cite this "coup" as grounds for questioning and opposing ANY other future (related or unrelated) action or requests through this lens. When they come asking the Town of Telluride or SMC grant a variance on this or that, well maybe they might have made a solid case before, but now their political capital has been spent ...

March 24, 2011
I find it interesting that Hintermisters group shows their faces and names in support of their opinion and the NO Night Flights Network has no identifyiing marks. Are they afraid to show their true colors ? What do they have to hide ?

I would assume they are backed by the Montrose Airport- whom really enjoy our tax dollars.

Question whom you support-this green and healthy lifestyle group want our airline guarrenty taxes to be used in Montrose not in Telluride.
March 24, 2011
OH Pleasssssse, ANYONE who bought a lot at ALdasaro KNEW the airport was there,YOU bought a lot at the AIRPORT, and with the airport comes airplanes ! An airport with air traffic what a novel idea !

March 23, 2011
While this is a serious matter..I laughed out loud when I read old Hintermeisters' "blast".." a threat to intimidate TRAA"...as if you could threaten a bunch who think it is a "ploy" to ask the TRAA to see what the night lights do to their family dinner in the dining rooms above the airport..

Yes, Matthew, this TRAA bunch threatens easily and is intimidated by a group of our neighbors who have gathered together to prevent the net values of their homes going into the toilet and who have to live with the very real possibility that a jet could plow into their kids bedrooms...

Go neighbors go...off to the website now and to make a contribution...if you care about our neighbors up on the hill please consider a contribution, too.