Four hours of testimony didn’t sway Custer County commissioners to change the county’s position to permit an airstrip on a ranch in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Dozens of people spoke during the Aug. 25 public hearing that was prompted by an appeal of a conditional use permit approved by the county planning and zoning commission which allows the airstrip to exist and be used. The appeal was filed by a group named Advocates for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which has about 125 members. In addition, hundreds of written comments were submitted to the county on the issue. Earlier this year more than 600 written comments were submitted as the permit process worked its way through the planning and zoning process, two-thirds of which opposed the request. Public comment in the second go-round also leaned heavily against the measure.
County Commissioner Steve Smith asked plenty of questions of speakers during the hearing. At the conclusion of the comment period, Smith told the audience that none of the three county commissioners took the issue lightly. County officials read the documents, he said, and took the matter seriously.
In the end, Smith said he was looking for proof that Michael Boren and Amanda Boren, the ranch owners who have the airstrip, “disobeyed our laws, our ordinances.”
Smith didn’t elaborate, but then said he supported the county planning and zoning board and didn’t “plan on kicking it back to them on anything.”
He also suggested that if the people on opposite sides of this issue have future complaints, they work things out as neighbors.
Fellow Commissioner Randy Corgatelli said he believed the planning commission “did a good job and I’m gonna stand behind them.”
Commission Chairman Wayne Butts noted the overall audience had been relatively respectful, but Butts did call out Steve Boren for raising his voice and pointing his finger at people while delivering his comments. Steve Boren directed comments specifically at two people who spoke against the conditional use permit.
“I really can’t find a reason to not stand behind what planning and zoning has put to us,” Butts said.
In a written statement, Advocates for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area said they weren’t surprised, but “are deeply disappointed” by the decision.
However, the Advocates said, they believe the hearing had two silver linings. “The first is that Boren, now knows — without a doubt — that his flights have been disruptive to his neighbors. Boren testified repeatedly at the hearing that he wants to be a good neighbor and he is a good person from a good family. His nearby neighbors plan to reach out to him so he can made good on his word and keep his airstrip as low impact as possible.” They also plan to be more proactive in reporting disruptions caused by low-level aircraft.
The other positive outcome, according to the Advocates, is that the Forest Service has requested that Boren provide documentation of the various federal permits needed for the airstrip.
Video of the entire public hearing can be viewed at
https://www.facebook.com/pg/ advocatesforthesawtoothnra/ videos/?ref=page_internal.