A report from one of the five committees that’s tasked with coming up with recommendations on redevelopment and expansion of the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport suggests that the effort concentrate on the terminal for now and the “air side” later because of a lack of data regarding the current effect of airport operations on the community.

The report was the focus of Wednesday night’s meeting of all the committees, held at the Doerr-Hosier Center at the Aspen Meadows Resort. Cindy Houben, director of community development for Pitkin County and a member of the Character Committee, was one of the featured speakers.

Earlier on Wednesday, Houben referred to the report and noted that it can be viewed on asevision.com, the website officials have set up to provide information about the yearlong process that’s expected to result in a final recommendation to county commissioners at the end of the year.

According to the report’s conclusions, the Character Committee — which, like the other groups, has been conducting research and meeting since early spring — strongly recommends that character considerations, and the consequences of any decisions, be thoroughly vetted to provide thresholds for the final product. 

“We further recommend that the entire airport planning process use Character Committee recommendations as a first, and then as a final filter,” the report says. “It is the responsibility of every ASE Vision committee to develop a plan which is value-based and data driven.”

According to the report, the committee unanimously agrees that terminal improvements are urgently needed at the airport.

“However, each group should also consider unintended consequences that may result from their recommendations and impacts such actions may have to our community values,” the report states.

With regard to potential air-side improvements — including what’s said to be a necessary runway expansion to accommodate a new generation of commercial aircraft with a wider wingspan — “the group has felt hampered by the absence of baseline data within areas of community concern.” 

The report further states that trying to predict the effects of air-side improvements—both positive and negative — “without knowing where we are today devolves into speculation guided more by bias than fact.”

The group recommends prioritizing terminal planning, and fast-tracking data collection to create a baseline understanding of the airport’s current impacts on air quality, noise levels, vehicle trips and light pollution.

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at andre@aspendailynews.com.