Bluff Town Council creates aviation overlay zone

by David Boyle
News Director
In October members of the Bluff Town Council adopted an ordinance creating an aviation overlay zone to create a two-mile radius from the town center preventing the creation and operation of aviation facilities within the two-mile zone.
The ordinance in part states that aviation facilities have the potential of creating significant impacts to neighbors including noise, lighting impacts, visual impacts, air pollution, and safety concerns.
The ordinance does find other properties, outside the two-mile radius from the Cottonwood Wash bridge, as an appropriate location for the sitting and development of aviation uses as they are less likely to cause harm to adjacent land uses.
The adopted resolution does not apply to hot air balloon activities nor life/safety operations as the town notes those activities don’t present the same level of concern as other commercial flight activities.
When adopting the ordinance at a special October 5 meeting council debated whether a two, 2.5, or three-mile radius would be best for the restriction of aviation facilities. Mayor Ann Leppanen noted her support of the two-mile zone as it left more private land available for commercial aviation.
At the meeting council member Luanne Hook asked about a conditional use process allowing for some aviation to be allowed within the two-mile radius.
“Conditional use allows for areas and flight plans to be considered, noise levels, shielding, really strict conditions on conditional use and be able to look at someone’s idea within this two-mile (radius).”
Leppanen said she couldn’t support conditional use in that area.
“People are too close together, you’ve got people living right next to businesses. And as we’ve all talked about, it’s a very mixed bag within our town proper and I don’t think it serves the community well to have any commercial aviation within that two-miles.” 
Leppanen added her concern about allowing for conditional-use permits as she said they can be hard to manage and can cause issues.
Council member Jim Sayers added his support of leaving out a conditional use permit, saying that the decision was considerate noting that the Bluff airstrip is four miles from town.
“We’ve already reduced the distance from the center of town by 50 percent to the airport. We just heard an argument that there is more land at the two-mile limit for people to use and looking at this map I see substantial areas that would be perfect for an airstrip or some kind of facility.”
Members of the council voted to approve the aviation overlay zone with a restrictive radius about two miles from the center of town with no conditional use permits allowed within that radius. The full ordinance can be read on the Bluff town website.
The ordinance concluded an 180-day moratorium on development of aviation facilities enacted in April by the town council. After the town learned about plans in motion by Desert Rose Inn to construct a helipad to run tours from the hotel.
At the April meeting Desert Rose Inn owner Amer Tumeh shared the proximity of the proposed helipad to the hotel would make him extra sensitive to the noise issue.
“We want to continue to be a good neighbor... The flight plan would be over the river coming in where we would not fly over anybody’s house. We want to fly friendly because we want to be there for a long time.”
In April, several Bluff residents spoke in favor of the moratorium in order to explore the issue, including Josh Ewing, who said he was a proponent of incorporation for the town for conversations like these.
“My recommendation and encouragement is to think long and hard before having policies that promote frequent aviation over a small town when most of us live here for peace and quiet, especially when we invest and put a lot of energy into having an airport which would be a more appropriate place for this activity.”
Following the enacting of the moratorium a public hearing was held by the Planning and Zoning Commission in May with the council and commission hosting several joint meetings before the town council ultimately voted to enact the ordinance.
Council members Linda Sosa, Brant Murray, Sayers, and Leppanen voted in favor of the motion with Hook voting against.
At their October 17 meeting members of the Bluff town council reflected on the town’s preparation for the Annular Eclipse. While the town admittedly didn’t get as large of a number of visitors as anticipated, members of staff and town council all agreed they’d rather be overprepared than underprepared. Council thanked citizens for volunteering and being friendly to visitors.
At the meeting, the council also received an update on a Utah Department of Transportation initiative to build 1,000 miles of trails throughout Utah. the project focuses on spreading projects evenly across UDOT regions and an emphasis on building hard surface trails safely seperated from highways in and connecting towns.
Several Bluff representatives showed up to a regional meeting in Moab where the town emphasized their fit for the project including the ease of installing a safe walking/biking path in the flat area.
One proposed design would start south of St. Christopher’s Mission, run through town with several crosswalks, and continue West connecting to Butler Wash.

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