Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

November 5, 2020
Tooele County Planning Commission looks at overlay zone for Erda Airport

Salt Lake City’s Department of Airports wants Tooele County to adopt an airport overlay zone for their Tooele Valley Airport in Erda.

If adopted, the overlay zone would restrict the land uses, including height and use restrictions, in defined areas surrounding the airport, beyond the normal land use zones already in place.

The meeting was held as a Zoom webinar. It included presentations by RS&H Consultants and the Salt Lake Department of Airports.

The public provided comments during the meeting by Zoom. 

It all boils down to how Tooele County sees the future of the airport, according to Steven Domino, senior planning consultant with RS&H Consultants and the former director of planning and capital programming for the Salt Lake Department of Airports.

RS&H Consulting is a national consulting service with experience in aviation and aerospace planning and development with an office in Salt Lake City. They have prepared a Tooele Valley Airport Overlay Study for the Salt Lake City Department of Airports. 

“Do you want to continue as is with limited use and possible closure by encroachment or do you want to allow some growth and develop it as an economic asset to the county,” he said. “Do you want to protect your vision?”

Using a variety of standards, including Federal Aviation Administration standards and customary departure and landing flight patterns at Tooele Valley Airport, RS&H staff have developed proposed boundaries for different overlay zones surrounding the airport.

The zones take into consideration noise and safety guidelines with the intention of protecting airspace, aircraft, the airport, potential land buyer, and compliance with federal regulations, according to Kelsey Reeves, aviation planner with RS&H.

The consultants identified sensitive land uses for property near the airport. Thuse uses are: residential, mobile home parks, transient lodgings, residential facilities for elderly and disabled persons, educational institutions, religious institutions, hospitals, outdoor parks or sports arenas, outdoor music venues and amphitheaters, nature exhibits and zoos, amusement parks, resorts, and camps, golf courses, riding stables, and water recreation.

The proposed overlay boundaries include five different zones with increasing restrictions as they get nearer to the runway.

They are labeled zones A, B, C, D and H. Zone A is the land closest to the airport.

In Zone A no residential or other sensitive uses would be allowed. Other uses would be allowed with an emphasis on aviation compatible businesses and uses, according to the RS&H proposal.

In Zone B residential uses would be limited to a density of RR-1 or less with a conditional use permit. Other sensitive uses would be allowed as a conditional use. All other land uses would be permitted, subject to Tooele County’s Land Use Ordinance.

In Zone C residential uses would be limited to a density of RR-1 or less with a conditional use permit. Other sensitive uses would be allowed as a conditional use. All other land uses would be permitted, subject to Tooele County’s Land Use Ordinance.

In Zone D residential uses would be limited to a density of R-1-10, 10,000-square-foot lots, or less with a conditional use permit. 

Other sensitive uses would be allowed as a conditional use. All other land uses would be permitted, subject to Tooele County’s Land Use Ordinance.

In Zone H there would be no land use restrictions but height restrictions would apply.

All new development in the five zones would be subject to height restrictions following federal regulations and the FAA standard obstruction evaluation and airport space analysis required.

Avigation easements would also be required for new construction in the airport overlay zones.

Some planning commission members were a little uncomfortable about restricting land uses of current landowners.

“This may be necessary, but changing the use of a landowner’s property without any compensation to them or taking away their property value by doing this sounds like a ‘taking,’” said planning commissioner Jeff McNeill.

The overlay zones depend on the future of the airport, according to planning commissioner Blair Hope.

“I’ve always thought of the airport as a luxury recreational airport,” Hope said. “If we’re talking about commercial cargo flights, we’re going to need something much bigger than this.”

Currently the Bureau of Land Management wants to expand their firefighting operations at the airport, increasing their footprint on the ground and increasing flights, said Brady Fredrickson, senior aviation planner with Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City has just started the process of developing a new master plan for the Tooele Valley Airport, according to Fredrickson.

Some landowners in the area are concerned that the overlay is just a way to devalue their property.

“The airport has no conditional use permit from the County,” said Neil Kunz, Erda. “They have expanded without approval from the County. … They have provided no compensation for taking increased airspace. … They want to devalue property and buy it cheap.”

Ray Walters owns 50 acres in the proposed overlay Zone A, where no residential uses would be permitted. Although existing uses would become legal non-conforming uses, Walters said his property is already subdivided into five lots, lots that are intended for his children to build on in the future.

“Will this stop my children from building on these lots?” he asked.

The planning commission may hold some more work sessions on the proposed overlay plan before their regular business meetings.

Once they move beyond the working stage and develop a draft ordinance for consideration, the proposed changes will be placed on a regular meeting agenda with an official public hearing and notice, according to Rachelle Custer, Tooele County community development director.

The notice for the public hearing will be sent to all affected landowners, she said.

Tooele Valley Airport currently provides many aviation-related services, including business-related flying, skydiving, law enforcement/fire/rescue flying services, recreational flying, and flight training. It is operated with one primary runway, oriented in a general north-south direction, along with a supporting parallel taxiway system, according to the Salt Lake Airport Department.

The airport was created in the early 1970s as a result of a 1969 study by the Tooele County Commission under the direction of the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Tooele County’s land use plan.

Tooele County approached Salt Lake City Airport in the early 90s and asked them to take control of the airport, according to Domino.

The Tooele Valley Airport, sometimes called the Erda Airport, is on Erda Way, approximately 2.8 miles west of state Route 36 at 4663 N Airport Road.


Tim Gillie

Editor at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Tim has been writing for the Transcript Bulletin since October 2017. In February 2019 he was named as editor. In addition to being editor, Tim continues to write about Tooele County government, education, business, real estate, housing, politics and the state Legislature.A native of Washington state and a graduate of Central Washington University, Tim became a journalist after a 20 year career with the Boy Scouts of America.

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