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The Cache County Council is considering an amendment to county code to formally allow citizens to apply to build private airstrips on their property.

“We are very supportive of this and appreciate the Council taking the time for this,” Mendon resident Rachel Holyoak commented at the June 4 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. “I think this does the right thing in making sure that we aren’t infringing on our neighbors but still be allowed to have an airstrip.”

The Cache County Council will hold a public hearing Tuesday, July 14, for a proposed amendment to county code that will formally define private airports, following the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval earlier this year.

The proposed amendment to Title 17 of county code, officially called Ordinance 2015-09, has been in discussion since April. Spurred by concerns over safety after reports of planes landing on a shared private road in Mendon and a plane landing in a residential area on a private airstrip in Paradise, as well as numerous requests by county residents to have legal airstrips on their property, the Commission examined the code and found found the need for increased specificity.

In providing a definition for private airports, the door is opened to smaller, more recreational operations.

Under the proposed amendment, private airports do not need to be licensed by the state of Utah, but they still must meet the requirements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which provides oversight of landing sites.

Although private airports do not need to be put on maps, they must still be registered with the FAA as a designated landing strip. The areas in the county where private airports are allowed are all listed under conditional use to allow for adjacent landowners to voice any concerns before a private airport’s approval.

Holyoak, whose husband, Nathan, has a pilot’s license and owns a small plane hangared on their land, previously had an airstrip until the county requested its removal under the previous code, which didn’t make any distinction between private and commercial airstrips. The amendment would allow her and her husband to work with the commission to rebuild it legally, provided that it meets the requirements of the FAA as well as County Code.

“As someone who is hoping this will be considered, I want to be a law abiding citizen and still hangar our plane at our house,” Holyoak said at the April 9 meeting where the amendment was first discussed. “Our intent wouldn’t be to be a trouble or to cause problems, but to be able to use the property for some of the reasons we purchased it.”

Military and commercial pilot Greg Musselman, who operated his small, self-built airplane from his property for eight months until a neighbor requested him to stop, echoed Holyoak’s desires.

“The county does need to have oversight over this, and the FAA obviously already does,” he said at the June 4 Commission meeting. “This is a property rights issue for me. We just want to use our property in a legal and respectful way and the way we want to.”

Following the July 14 public hearing on the amendments, the County Council can vote to approve it immediately. However, the final decision on the amendment is expected to take place at the Council’s July 28 meeting.

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Clayton Gefre is the County Council reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at cgefre@hjnews.com or 435-792-7234.

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