airport

A plane waits to take off at the Aspen Airport on Nov. 17.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners finalized their edits to the ASE Vision Committee’s 15 goals for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Tuesday.    

“The real key thing is, it’s just the beginning of the next couple of years of planning,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said. “It gives us a direction so we can then start planning, and we will have public comment throughout.”

Last Wednesday the BOCC reviewed and made slight revisions to the ASE Vision Committee’s first 11 goals for the proposed future airport development. However, when commissioners could not come to an agreement on Goal No. 12 — to “reconfigure the airfield to accommodate ADG III aircraft with wingspans greater than 95 feet” — they continued the discussion for Tuesday.

“It wasn’t just wording changes; there were some real decision points that the board had to make,” Commissioner Kelly McNicholas Kury said of the document’s final four goals that brought the board to a stalemate last week.

Prior to Tuesday’s work session, McNicholas Kury composed what she called the “prelude to the airside improvement goals.” The board, after a bit of rewording, agreed to place some of McNicholas Kury’s suggested text immediately before the document's final four goals.    

The prelude states, “Pursuit of the work in the proposed airport layout plan will not be approved by the [board of county commissioners] until such time as negotiations with the FAA and/or the airlines and other partners, or clear and convincing evidence in an updated fleet mix study indicate that only aircraft which is cleaner, quieter and of a certain size will service ASE.”  

While Goal No. 12 dealt with the airfield’s reconfiguration, Goals 13 through 15 outlined the vision committee’s desire to leave the runway where it is and to prioritize terminal improvements.

A handful of broad unanswered questions, like what the airline industry would look like following the pandemic, made editing the ASE Vision Committee’s goals challenging for commissioners at times. 

“Do we want to build a brand new terminal at the expense of facilitating the landing of larger, dirtier, noisier aircraft?” McNicholas Kury asked Tuesday.

Ultimately, the board directed staff to finalize a formal resolution that includes all 15 goals for the airport, of which commissioners will conduct a first reading — as well as receive public comment — at their next regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 2. 

“All of those [goals] came out of an 18-month public process,” Clapper said. “We just refined the language.”

While improvements to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport remain in the distant future, the airport’s Interim Director Rich Englehart commended the commissioners and members of the public for their work on the guiding document. 

“I think it’s been a very open and transparent process,” Englehart said. “It’s a cautious approach going forward but one that I believe will be great for our community.” 

Matthew Bennett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at: matthew@aspendailynews.com