Weiser Airport seeks county approval of rezone


A private jet, parked at the Weiser Airport last week, brought in personnel and company officials who are overseeing the expansion of a local business in Weiser. Photo by Philip A. Janquart

This helicopter has been flying in and out of the Weiser Airport for the last several weeks, reportedly transporting unidentified personnel to a future development site in the mountains north of Cambridge. Photo courtesy of Weiser Airport
By: 
Philip A. Janquart
 It has taken over 50 years for anyone to notice.
 Back in the 1970s, when land south of Weiser was being zoned, apparently nobody thought to zone Weiser Municipal Airport property industrial, instead leaving the city-owned ground agricultural.
 Airport Manager Jim Metzger only recently learned of the oversight when the Weiser River Animal Shelter and Rescue (WRASR) began looking at a structure on the property, a portion of which must be rezoned to allow the facility’s future operation.
 The WRASR is currently in the process of securing the building just east of the airport, off Airport Road. The building was used as an onion shed and once housed a car-crushing operation, among other things. The small piece of land surrounding the structure consists of deep gravel, so it is considered unreclaimable farm ground.
 “This all started with the animal shelter and somebody mentioned that the whole airport is actually zoned agricultural,” Metzger told the Signal American last week. “I said, ‘What!’ If that’s the case, none of this should be here. I mean, I didn’t know; I don’t think anybody knew.”
 The Washington County Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the matter April 16, the City of Weiser requesting a zone change from A-1 agricultural to D-2 heavy industrial.
 The Signal American did not attend the meeting, but Metzger, who gave a presentation, said the issue was tabled until the next planning and zoning meeting on May 20.
 “This has been industrial out here for a very long time,” Metzger said. “The airport came into being in the mid-40s. They used it for civilian pilot training, and we had two gravel runways at that time, but from then until now, there has always been industrial stuff happening out here. Property zoning went into place in about 1972 and for reasons that are unclear, they left this agricultural. Theoretically, none of this should be here. There should never have been a building permit issued for this airport.”
 The airport currently consists of 14 private hangars, in addition to a city hangar and a small administrative building attached to it. A crop-dusting business also operates out of the Weiser Airport, providing service to farmers in the area and beyond.
 There are several strips and triangular-shaped pockets of airport ground, surrounding the hangars and runway, that are currently being rented to local farmers.  
 According to Metzger, the farmers rent the land with the understanding that they could lose parts of their growing area if a development comes along.
 In September 2022, the airport’s taxi lanes were extended into one of the rented agricultural fields directly to the east, about three acres in all, giving small aircraft the ability to easily taxi between two rows of hangars.
 Metzger said land beyond airport property is mostly agricultural, which is great, but added that there is a future danger of subdivisions coming, which is not the best situation for airports.
 “The whole area is already subdivided into five-acre plots,” he said.
 So, with current zoning, could the airport ever be dissolved? Metzger said no.
 “That is very unlikely because we are an obligated airport to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and they have put millions of dollars into this airport, and if the land is sold, that money has to be paid back,” he said. “But there is a great, big danger of a subdivision being planted right next to it. That’s why we would like to have an industrial buffer around it, so we don’t have subdivisions that just back right up to the runway.”
 And what’s the problem with that?
 Metzger says it creates a lot of problems, people not thinking about the noise and activity while under the influence of buyer’s excitement. 
 The case was be made clear years ago when  homeowners in a new subdivision near Gown Field in Boise began complaining about noise. The issue became heated.
 “I guess these people didn’t understand that they were moving in next to an airport,” one unnamed pilot expressed to the Signal American last week.
 Metzger added that in terms of safety, in the rare case of engine failure or some other catastrophe, a pilot would rather go down in an agriculture field or crash into an industrial development rather than residential homes.
 “We don’t want houses next to our airport,” he said. “Instead, we want businesses, hopefully aviation businesses and, by the way, we’ve had two of them consider Weiser.”
 One of them did not ultimately choose Weiser, but the other is yet to be determined.
 “Kit Fox was considering moving out of Homedale and opening something in Weiser, but we haven’t heard anything about that yet, but the point is that people are looking at Weiser for that kind of activity and without a zone change, they can’t legally do it.”
 In the end, Metzger says rezoning the land is the best course of action.
 “This is happening to correct an oversight from 50 years ago and to provide the airport a buffer for generations to come,” he said.
 In terms of current farming on airport property, Metzger said nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future.
 “The ag ground that is currently being farmed will continue to be farmed,” he said.

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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