Boulder County commissioners on Thursday denied a skydiving company's application to continue using a 5.6-acre parcel on a Gunbarrel-area farm as a landing zone for parachutists.
Thursday's unanimous decision by Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Deb Gardner and Elise Jones means that the Boulder Municipal Airport-based Independent Skydive Co. will have to cease using the landing zone about a quarter mile south of the intersection of North 79th Street and Mineral Road. The site is part of a larger 36-acre area on Charles-Rodgers property at 5980 N. 79th.
Independent Skydive Co. owner Jeremy Divan, who's been using the property as a landing zone since September 2011, said after the meeting that it's his understanding that he'll have to stop using it immediately.
Divan predicted it may take six or more months to find another suitable landing zone for his businesses' skydiving clients and customers, and to try to get Boulder County's permission for converting that site to an "outdoor recreation use," if it's in an unincorporated area in this county.
County commissioners emphasized that their decision wasn't based on complaints and concerns brought by skydiving operations critics -- including critics of Mile-Hi Skydiving, based at Longmont's Vance Brand Municipal Airport, as well as Divan's Independent Skydive -- about the noise and flight patterns of the planes carrying the parachutists. Those are issues regulated by agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the airports themselves, and not by the county, commissioners insisted.
Said Gardner: "We really don't have any jurisdiction over the air space."
Instead, commissioners endorsed its Land Use Department's recommendation: that the county deny Independent Skydive's application because neither the 5.6 acre landing site nor the larger 36-acre area in which it's located are big enough to prevent parachutists from landing on adjacent and nearby properties.
Land Use staffer Steven Williams wrote in a memo to the commissioners that the department couldn't conclude "that the proposed property can sufficiently accommodate the proposed use and may rely on the use of adjacent properties to receive errant skydivers or to retrieve associated equipment." The memo said the county staff doesn't believe "it is reasonable to expect adjacent property owners to ... bear this direct of an impact" when landings occur off-site.
The 15 people who testified at the Board of County Commissioners' Thursday hearing on Independent Skydive's application included supporters as well as critics of the company's proposal to continue using the farmland for landings.
Marc Horan, who said he works at Boulder Municipal Airport, said the plane Divan uses to carry skydivers is one of only 167 aircraft based at the airport, and "eliminating his operation is not going to eliminate the noise" of planes arriving or departing from that facility.
Horan also asked why the county would want "to eliminate the fun for thousands of people" who enjoy skydiving or want to try it.
But Longmont resident Wayne Wolfe described what he said is the continuous noise from Mile-Hi's skydiving aircraft -- planes he said sometimes pass over his neighborhood every 15 minutes -- a situation Wolfe said "shouldn't be allowed in the quality of life in Boulder County."
Commissioner Jones encouraged Divan to check out other possible land-zone locations that wouldn't raise the land-use concerns that the North 79th Street area did, "and see if you can get to 'yes' on another site."
John Fryar can be reached at 303-684-5211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.