The Sky Ranch airstrip is only a few hundred yards from the Grand County line, but that makes all the difference for concerned neighbors. The runway has recently been repaved and extended, prompting neighbors’ fears of increased activity at what has historically been a small, rural airstrip.
The circulation of a development plan for Sky Ranch, which was found online in an aviator’s forum, raised neighbors’ concerns. The plan shows that a number of houses and hangars are planned for the site, located in San Juan County.
The land is zoned A-1 for agriculture, and has limited zoning regulations. Since there are no regulations pertaining to nightly rentals, they would also be permitted, Greg Adams, the subdivision administrator for San Juan County Planning and Zoning, confirmed.
Grand County resident Chuck Nichols estimates that the airstrip currently sees one plane a month in terms of flight activity and worries that air traffic could increase under a new planned development at the site, which is owned by Red Rock Partners, LLC and managed by local resident Mike Bynum, who also lives near the airstrip.
“My concerns are two things,” Nichols said. “One is the amount of noise that’s going to be suffered by the residents of Spanish Valley and number two is the safety, the safety of the people and their buildings and property out here due to inexperienced pilots or pilots inexperienced with the conditions here. The offshoot of that too is the danger extended all the way to Moab with pilots making low-altitude flights.”
Neighbor Don Oblak said that the potential volume of traffic is his main worry.
“We’re ... concerned with how aircraft traffic would impact us ... [we’re] just adjacent to the county and, to make an informed decision, we need to know how many aircraft will be here,” Oblak said. “No one told us about this … it caught us off-guard. We didn’t realize as we got into it more, the possible potential size of this development and the preliminary drawing ... we would want to find out more. We’d like to know the traffic pattern. Is there a way to mitigate the effects on us over here? And maybe there is. That’s what we want to find out.”
Bynum said that the plan for the area is a residential, fly-in community.
“As of right now, the runway was simply redone because the other one was still being used but it was pretty worn out … it’s been a long time, 40 or 50 years.It just needed updating. It was still being used from time to time but basically the blacktop was just disintegrating,” Bynum said. “Somebody authorized six one-acre lots some time ago, so it’s just going to be one-acre lots on either side of the runway where there’s room to do that … it will be one-acre lots only and it’s intended to be a very nice fly-in community so it will not be metal hangars or buildings of that type but rather residential. It’s a private airport so the use is rather limited to the people who are there at the property. I live south of the runway, so my home is actually on the flight path because planes taking off to the south usually fly to the west to gain altitude … I can’t say there’s no impact. There is for everyone including myself but certainly I think the fact that it is for private use will limit at least the frequency of flights in and out.”
According to RedTail Air, however, those private uses may include possible UPS deliveries while renovations are underway at Canyonlands Field.
Last month John Ramsey, president of Redtail Air and a close friend of Bynum, told The Times-Independent that the 2,000-foot crosswind strip is planned for Canyonlands Field and that the strip will operate as a temporary runway while the airport is under construction. Ramsey confirmed that Redtail would use Sky Ranch for five daily UPS flights a week, if the crosswind strip is not completed by the time the Canyonlands Field closes on Jan. 1.
“The only activity we’ll have at Sky Ranch will be that UPS flight and that will only be until this temporary runway is put in,” Ramsey said. He added that if the crosswind strip is completed before that point, it will not be necessary to move any operations to Sky Ranch.
Adams confirmed that San Juan County does not require any permits for the current activity at Sky Ranch. Allen Kenitzer, a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration, said that they are working with Bynum on regulatory issues.
“The FAA is working with the Sky Ranch Airport to bring its master record up to date to make sure it is in line with current regulatory requirements. We will continue to work with Sky Ranch Airport through the coming weeks and months. Sky Ranch has not yet filed their new runway information with us yet,” Kenizter said.