About half the 40 or so audience members left before the 3 3/4-hour public hearing concerning a request for an airstrip in Stanley ended last week.

Those who stuck around learned the Custer County Planning and Zoning Commission members intend to render a decision on the conditional use permit at their May 6 meeting. That 7 p.m. meeting is scheduled at the Challis Community Event Center. It’s open to the public, but P&Z commission Chairwoman Corinne Jones said no additional public comment on the request will be accepted at the May meeting. Rather, she said, commission members will discuss the issue and vote on the permit request.

Jones said commission members “need time to process this,” after hearing hours of comments and acknowledging the 600-plus written comments that had been submitted on the issue. She also reminded audience members that they should not try to discuss the permit request with commission members before the May meeting and reminded commission members they aren’t supposed to discuss it among themselves either. Commission members need to reach their own decisions independently, Jones said.

Commission members are considering a request from Michael Boren of Stanley and his daughter, Amanda Boren of Salt Lake City, for a conditional use permit at their Hell Roaring Ranch on Idaho Highway 75 near Stanley. The Borens use a portion of a pasture on their property as a runway for their private planes. They are asking the county to designate it as a county airstrip.

According to their application, the conditional use permit was sought “for insurance purposes only.” However, that reason was not cited by any member of the Boren family during the public hearing.

The Borens said in their application and at the hearing that there will be no construction of a runway and use of the strip won’t change much from the one or two flights a week that land and take off there now. Except, they said, if the airstrip is recognized by the county it could then be used by emergency service entities who need to land a plane in that area for medical transport. Likewise, Michael Boren said, if the airstrip is listed on aeronautical maps it could be used in the event a pilot needs to make an emergency landing because of mechanical issues with a plane.

The airstrip is for “private restricted use now,” Boren said. “If we get on the list it would be for emergency use.” He would then notify the Federal Aviation Administration the details of the strip so it could be designated on maps used by pilots.

Mostly, Michael Boren said, he uses his planes to fly between his multiple Idaho ranches and would continue to do so as he has since 1994.

When he began landing his private planes in the field, Boren said “it didn’t make sense we needed a permit, so we didn’t apply,” because of the type of use. A conditional use permit is needed in Custer County if an airstrip is to be used as a public service strip. “We don’t think we need a permit for private use,” he said, but he acknowledged a permit is needed if the strip becomes a public service facility open to EMS providers.

Boren was contacted by Custer County Assessor Jacquel Bruno, he said, who told him the Forest Service had said a conditional use permit was needed. Bruno told him it would be “no big deal” to apply, Boren said, but “it is a big deal,” he said, with a chuckle.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Jessica Clemenhagen confirmed that the county had advised Boren he needed a conditional use permit. The county’s action did not stem from any complaints filed about the airstrip, she said.

As the petitioner, Boren was allotted the greatest amount of time to speak. In his 30 minutes of presentation and rebuttal, he talked about his family’s heritage in Custer County, his love of the county’s aviation history and how Custer County helped him “form my core values” which include learning to be good to your neighbors, serving your neighbors and respecting your neighbors.

“We respect other people’s private lands,” he said, and are “appreciative of good stewardship of public and private land.” Boren talked about how Custer County residents value the “rights of people to enjoy their lives the way they want to,” and noted that Custer County is a place where multiple use exists.

After buying the property near Stanley about 5 years ago, Boren said he researched zoning laws and scenic easement restrictions “to appropriately use our land and, we thought, live in harmony.” He had endangered species, wetlands and irrigation specialists visit the site to help address the streambank grazing issues to “make the ranch better for cattle and wildlife.”

The ranch is inspected annually by the Forest Service because of the scenic easement that’s in place on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Boren said no one from the Forest Service or the Sawtooth National Recreation Area has ever told him he’s in violation of his easement.

Editor’s note:

News stories focusing on public comments submitted on this issue will appear in future issues of the Messenger.