Thursday, August 01, 2013

Commissioners approve conditional permit for private air strip: Albany, Oregon

The Linn County Board of Commissioners Wednesday unanimously upheld a Planning Commission decision to approve a conditional use permit for development of a private airstrip at 38491 Scravel Hill Road.

The 9.9-acre property is owned by Merle and Carmen Mitchell.

The board had presided over a two-hour public hearing about the issue on Tuesday, but awaited information from the Oregon Department of Aviation concerning the number of annual small plane crashes into houses, before reaching its decision.

The board’s approval came with several conditions, most proposed by Commissioner Will Tucker.

Among them: the permit is non-transferrable; that the couple obtain the proper county and state registrations and permits; the number of take-offs and landings is limited to no more than two per day and four total per week; airstrip is no longer than 900-feet, nor wider than 65-feet; hours of operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; no low flights over houses or animals used for domestic or agricultural purposes; airport restricted to Piper Super Cub or smaller aircraft; no airplane engine maintenance that requires engine run-up allowed on property; and no storage of airplane fuel on the property.

At the suggestion of chairman Roger Nyquist, the board added a condition that Mitchell keep a log book of his take-offs and landings. Mitchell also agreed to allow Nyquist to visit the property on a quarterly basis to ensure he was in compliance with the conditions.

Nyquist had originally proposed that it be part of the conditions, but commissioner John Lindsey argued that if the county required inspections of the Mitchell property, it would have to do the same for every other property in the county with conditional use permits. 

Several neighbors opposed the airstrip primarily due to concerns about noise and possible pollution of the nearby Santiam River and the wells used by the Scravel Hill Water Co-op. The water inlet for the co-op is about six-tenths of a mile south of the air strip.

Lindsey said he could not see how an airplane flying several hundred feet in the air could possibly pollute either resources.

Nyquist said the airstrip will not create any more issues than if the Mitchells decided to raise cattle or any of the other allowable uses in a rural residential zone. He added, though, that the Planning Department should look at whether personal air strips are truly compatible within that zoning category.

Former State Senator Mae Yih is among the neighbors who oppose the air strip.

“An air strip is not compatible with residential living,” Yih said. “The danger is there. There is no enforcement of the conditions, it’s only on a complaint basis.”

The board’s decision can be appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals.