Friday, August 16, 2013

Creswell plans to allow skydivers to cross runway: City Council votes to craft new policy, which will clear the way for settlement of a lawsuit - Hobby Field Airport (77S), Creswell, Oregon

CRESWELL — The City Council voted Thursday in a special meeting to develop a policy to allow skydivers to cross the runway at its municipal airport, and to settle a lawsuit with Eugene Skydivers for $50,000 and other conditions.

Mayor Dave Stram called the meeting to solicit community input on the question of whether parachutists, after landing in city-owned property to the east of the Hobby Field airport, could walk across the runway to return to the hangars.

“We felt it was of such magnitude that we needed to hear from the community and airport users,” Stram said.

The detail is important because city officials believe the lawsuit filed by Eugene Skydivers, alleging a breach of lease for not allowing sky­divers to land at the airport or on city-owned land just east of the airport, can be resolved if the walk-across-the-runway provision is allowed. The parcel east of the airport was formerly owned by the state Department of Transportation.

City Hall’s council chamber, which has seats for about 70 people, was packed during the meeting, and following a two-hour nonpublic session, about 15 people remained to hear the council’s decisions.

All but the city’s newest councilor, Adam Pelatt, voted to approve the motion outlining the proposed settlement.

Under that proposal, the city would authorize skydivers to use the former state Transportation Department property, which is outside the city’s urban growth boundary, assuming an agreement with Lane County can be reached.

If the settlement is finalized, the city would pay Eugene Skydivers $50,000. The original lawsuit was for $735,000.

During earlier public testimony, Donald Schindler offered a different solution, suggesting that a new hangar could be built on the same side of the runaway as the landings.

“Right now, it’s attitudes of people that got us in this pickle,” Schindler said. “The two sides need to get together and figure out what is best for everyone.”

The agreement would also stipulate that parachutists could cross east to west, obeying a set of safety procedures that have not yet been written, or face penalties after a certain number of violations.

During the public testimony, Ron Richie of Pleasant Hill spoke against the proposal to allow people to cross the runway to the hangar.

“Humans on a runway is an incorrect presence,” Richie said, likening it to pedestrians crossing Interstate 5. “(We) shouldn’t have to worry about this while flying a high-speed aircraft. ... This is not a good idea.”

Jürgen Ramil spoke in support of the proposal, saying this is a political feud and the onus of safety comes down on the precaution taken by everyone using the airport.

He said he has made more than 5,000 jumps as a skydiver.

“We have Sunday pilots who want the gravy but not the training,” Ramil said, calling the conflict “crazy.” “We are self-­policed. We don’t want to be killed, either.”