Bend Airport plan draws concerns

Residents said more helicopters pose noise problems

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin

City officials hope a new helicopter area at Bend Municipal Airport provides an economic shot in the arm and eventually helps recoup some of the jobs lost when Cessna Aircraft departed in 2009.

But some residents in a subdivision east of the airport are worried about the noise impact from more helicopters taking off and landing near their homes.

Bend city councilors on Jan. 8 gave an engineering firm the go-ahead to study how a growing airport might affect the surrounding area. The work is part of the airport’s long-term master plan, which also includes extending the airport runway and designating land on the airport’s east side for future aviation businesses.

Three residents in the nearby subdivision showed up to the meeting, voicing concerns about the growing noise issue and telling councilors they hadn’t been informed in advance of the meeting.

John Hancock, 67, is one of them. He and his wife, Nancy, moved into their home on Peacock Lane eight years ago, expecting some plane noise from the airport just west of them.

But Hancock said the growing helicopter traffic, coupled with dozens of flights a day and noise from early morning maintenance work at the airport, has had a dramatic impact on his quality of life.

The creation of a new, designated takeoff and landing area for helicopters on the northeast edge of the airport would only make the problem worse, he said.

“If they fly east, they’re going right over our houses. Everybody out here is affected by this,” Hancock said.

More than 200 homes and home lots are spread across the subdivision, called Cimarron City, according to Deschutes County property records.

City and airport officials said the Jan. 8 meeting was solely to give the engineering firm, Century West Engineering, permission to start an evaluation process to make sure the master plan is feasible.

The helicopter project is still several years away, assuming the master plan moves forward, Airport Manager Gary Judd said.

City officials said they’re aware of concerns from residents near the airport.

“I think there was some confusion as to where we are in the process,” Bend City Manager Eric King said, referring to the Jan. 8 meeting. The environmental impact phase over the next several months “will involve a public hearing and provide an opportunity for input from neighbors.”

The airport sits on land owned by the city but is situated outside of Bend’s urban growth boundary and Deschutes County-zoned property.

So the airport master plan needs to be incorporated into the county’s comprehensive land plan, a process likely to take at least two months, county senior planner Peter Russell said.

Still, Hancock said he and some of his neighbors feel their concerns are being ignored by the city. They plan to hold neighborhood meetings to discuss what, if anything, they can do to lessen the impact from increased flight traffic.

“I’m all for business, and all for aviation,” Hancock said. But the helicopter proposal “is a bad fit.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com