Birds of a feather should not flock to the airport

Laramie Regional Airport Manager Jack Skinner stands in front of an aircraft Thursday afternoon in a private hangar.

SHANNON BRODERICK/Boomerang photographer

Two amendments to Laramie ordinances rezoning aviation districts at the Laramie Regional Airport could provide a safer air-traffic environment and make it easier to develop private hangars.

Scheduled for final reading in February, the ordinances will rezone about 27 acres of airport property from an airport enterprise district, which facilitates businesses such as gas stations and hotels, to an aviation district, which facilitates hangars and aircraft maintenance.

“When we originally set up the zones, there was a portion inside the fence that was neglected,” Laramie Regional Airport Manager Jack Skinner said. “But the landscaping requirements for new development would attract birds and critters, which are detrimental to the safe operation of aircraft.”

Skinner defines the airport in two sections — inside the fence and outside the fence. The runway, buffer zone and tarmac, an area covered by tarmacadam where aircraft can refuel, drop off and pick up passengers, occupy about a 1,500-acre area inside the fence. The parking lot and area for airport-appropriate businesses not requiring access to the airstrip are located on about 200 acres of airport property outside the fence.

Although the airport was developed in the 1930s on land donated by Albany County, Skinner said it was annexed by the city in 2004. During the annexation process, airport and city staff worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop zones for future development, but they neglected to zone about 27 acres inside the fence as an aviation district.

“We could still build hangars in that area if they didn’t pass the ordinances,” Skinner said. “But it wouldn’t be cost effective with the landscaping requirements, which might keep us from securing (Federal Aviation Administration) grants in the future.”

He said the administration has tightened its policies regarding features that could attract birds to aviation areas during.

“The (Federal Aviation Administration) doesn’t want to have any landscaping inside the fence,” Skinner said. “It’s been a big deal — attracting birds — in the last 10 years because of the safety issue.”

By rezoning the area with an amendment to the first ordinance, private parties could build hangars on the 26.5 acres inside the fence, which is currently zoned for airport enterprise. The second ordinance amendment City Council is scheduled to consider would allow the airport to relocate landscaping required for developments inside the fence.

“We’re not getting rid of the landscaping requirement, but the airport would like the ability to put the landscaping where it won’t be a detriment to aircraft safety,” he said. “We’re looking at not only installing new landscaping along the entrance and other areas, but also putting in new signage, which adds points towards our (landscaping) requirement.”

Many of the airport’s older hangars split the fence — sitting both inside and outside — to give customers and employees access without having to go through security to enter the aviation district. But Skinner said most of those buildings were grandfathered in when the airport was annexed.

Buildings developed on the fence-line after the annex such as the Cowboy Aviation building comply with the landscaping requirement by planting trees and shrubbery only on the portion outside of the fence.

However, the area set aside for private airplane hangar development, taxi lanes F1 and F2, is completely inside the fence making it difficult to comply with both the city’s requirement for landscaping and the Federal Aviation Administration’s restriction on features that attract birds inside an aviation district.

“What (these amendments) will do is allow for more development of private hangars while still providing a safe flying environment,” Skinner said.

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