By Michael Howell
A public hearing to gather public comment on proposed changes to the Stevensville Airport Affected Area (AAA) regulations was rescheduled when too many people showed up to be accommodated in the process at Stevensville Town Hall last Thursday night. The public hearing has been rescheduled to take place on June 25 at 6 p.m. at the Light of the Valley Church located at 103 North Kootenai Creek Road.
More than 150 people showed up at last week’s meeting, packing the Town Hall meeting room to overflowing. With all seats occupied and people standing along the walls, the crowd quickly spilled over into the entrance hallway, out the back door into the alley and into the adjoining fire hall with a sizeable crowd left standing out front in the parking lot. Attendance numbers were fueled in part by an advertisement that circulated about the meeting urging attendance but containing some inaccurate and misleading information.
Several people who live in town and along Middle Burnt Fork Road showed up because they thought that the new regulations were going to apply restrictions and permitting requirements for activities on their property. According to Mayor Gene Mim Mack, there is a lot of confusion being aggravated by misinformation about the AAA. He said that while the AAA does extend close to two miles outside the airport, most of that area falls outside the much smaller area that is being regulated by a permitting process. The area in which permits may be required related to height restrictions extends about 3,000 feet from the ends of the runway. Some other restrictions apply at a greater distance along the approach path that would prohibit building a school, a hospital or a recreational facility along the approach path to the runway.
Mim Mack said that the current AAA adopted in 1989 is actually more restrictive than the one being considered.
“We are proposing to omit the land use regulations that are included in the present AAA,” said Mim Mack. “We eliminated all the land use language with only three exceptions. We retained the prohibition on building schools, hospitals or recreational facilities in the runway approach path.” These approach path zones extend 10,000 from the west end of the runway and 5,000 feet from the east end of the runway. Mim Mack said the proposed AAA is the same size as the existing AAA adopted in 1989 but the area in which permitting applies is much smaller. He said the area requiring permits is much smaller in the proposed AAA than in the existing one and very much smaller and less restrictive than the one placed on the Hamilton Airport by the County Commissioners.
The Ravalli County Commissioners, three of whom were in attendance at last Thursday’s meeting, held their own meeting concerning the Stevensville Airport AAA on May 19. At that meeting the Commissioners heard from several residents in the county that they were concerned about being regulated by the Town of Stevensville when they had no representation in the town government. The commissioners agreed unanimously to send a letter to the Town asking that a Joint AAA Regulation Board be established that would include members of the County Board of Commissioners. They said creation of such a joint board would allow for those citizens to have representation in the development of regulations placed on their property.
Mim Mack said he had no opposition to forming such a board but that it would have to be a town council decision. He said that the matter of forming the joint board has been turned over to the Town’s attorney for review and recommendation.
Comments may be given orally at the public hearing scheduled for June 25 or submitted in writing to the Town Clerk, or mailed to the Town Clerk at P. O. Box 30, Stevensville MT 59870 before 3 p.m. on June 25. Questions, comments or more information may be obtained by contacting Town Hall at 777-5271.