San Juan holds answers to Sky Ranch
by John Hales
The Times-Independent
Jan 04, 2018 | 2316 views | 0 0 comments | 78 78 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Don Oblak
Don Oblak

The concerns of some Spanish Valley residents about a proposed housing development near Sky Ranch airstrip, located in south Spanish Vallley, have been calmed after residents heard assurances about the proposal from the developer himself.

A group of two dozen or more residents filled the room at the Grand County Council meeting Tuesday, Jan. 2, eager for a chance to voice their worries and find recourse.

“I’m here to ask the council … to work with San Juan County to find out more about what’s going on,” said Don Oblak, one of the group’s several spokespeople.

Local developer Mike Bynum and other investors plan to build niche homes along the airstrip, which Bynum said they intend to sell to people with private airplanes who could use the airstrip, which is itself undergoing a bit of rehabilitation.

While the development is just inside San Juan County, Spanish Valley residents in Grand County said they’re the ones who will suffer from increased noise, the possibility of accidents and the loss of property value if the airstrip decreases the draw of the area’s natural beauty.

“We’re alarmed, because it’s been a small, private rural airstrip all along,” said Karl Spielman, another concerned citizen who lives adjacent to Sky Ranch in San Juan County. “If you were to allow jets to use this thing, their final approach for landing would be right over downtown Moab.”

That statement included a piece of what Bynum later said was incorrect information, which was that the airstrip would be open to jets.

Another resident, Chuck Nichols, presented a copy of a webpage that advertised flights to Moab and pictured something that looked like a small commercial jet. That idea, along with the fact that the homes might be used as short-term rentals for pilots coming in and out of the area, led Nichols and others to fear Sky Ranch would become far busier than it has to this point in its four or five decades of use.

“We realize we are in no position to make demands here, only neighborly requests for consideration,” said resident Bonita Kolb. “It’s our hope that both this council and Mr. Bynum will take to heart the needs of the current residents of Spanish Valley as this project takes shape.”

Bynum, also present at the meeting, explained the plan and the intentions of the developers. He said the airstrip was intended to remain for private, not commercial use, despite the fact that on that very day Sky Ranch became available for other, limited purposes while the county’s Canyonlands Airport is closed for construction projects. An assumption, based on observations by residents of work to repave the strip, was that the airstrip itself was expanding. Bynum said that, also, was not the case.

He said it’s his intention that people will purchase the homes in order to live there, (by inference, giving them as much stake-holding interest in preserving the character of the area as the Spanish Valley residents themselves have).

He also said there would be covenants in place with terms addressing some of the group’s concerns. Later, to The Times-Independent he said, “The covenants are going to be very strict, and … have some teeth in them with strict enforcement,” and include stipulations such as no nighttime flights, no commercial planes, and the like.

Bynum recognized his explanation would not satisfy all concerns.

“I welcome involvement from Grand County and San Juan County, but I’m mostly interested in talking to the neighbors … and addressing as many of their concerns as we can.”

Bynum made at least some headway in doing that.

“Mr. Bynum’s gone a long way to allaying some fears,” Spielman said following the meeting.

Later that evening, in a written message to The Times-Independent, Kolb said, “I will look forward to further communication and hopefully more answers to my questions about Sky Ranch. Mr. Bynum … seems to be a man of his word and I expect he will follow through and meet with us.”

But Council Member Curtis Wells said there was an important party to the situation who wasn’t there: San Juan County. “I think it’s going to be helpful, for a positive outcome, to parallel-track these presentations with everybody involved,” Wells said. “I would be more willing to help, but it’s important that you address [San Juan] in their chambers.”

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