Some neighbors are supportive, while others are not, of a proposal to build a private airstrip west of Redmond Airport and near the Maston Recreation Area.
Alex Polvi, a Deschutes County resident, wants to build a dirt airstrip on his 123-acre property off Harper Road west of U.S. Highway 97 between Tumalo and Redmond. The airstrip would be about 200 feet long, according to county planning documents, and would sit roughly 6 miles away from Redmond Airport.
Polvi said his intention is to use the strip only to fly a small bush plane once to twice a week, and that there would be no commercial air traffic coming in or out of his property. The Federal Aviation Administration sent a “no objection” letter about the proposal this summer as long as Polvi followed certain conditions, Allen Kenitzer, a regional public affairs officer for the FAA, said in an email.
Polvi is seeking to get a conditional use permit from the county to build the strip. The land is zoned for farming.
“When I saw having the ability to have my own airstrip was a conditional use, I was thrilled,” he said in a public hearing earlier this month.
Nathaniel Miller, a planner with the county, said these kinds of applications are unusual in the county. The last private airstrip application was processed in 2017.
Because of this, Miller said the county hopes a public hearings officer can make a decision about whether the airstrip can be compatible with the surrounding area.
“This type of proposal is rather unique,” Miller said Tuesday. “Our code criteria doesn’t get into the specifics of this kind of use.”
Several neighbors came to the hearing to support the project, describing Polvi as a good neighbor who asked them about the airstrip before he put in an application. They also said that compared to regular air traffic they see and hear from Redmond Airport, any disruption from Polvi’s flying would likely be minimal.
“I can’t imagine that it’s going to add any significant noise compared to the air traffic we already experience on a daily basis,” said Rob Ragonvich, a neighbor of Polvi’s, during the hearing.
But several others have testified against the airstrip. There were some that testified against it because they didn’t want more noise or other disruptions in an otherwise quiet area.
But most of the opposition stems from the proposed airstrip’s proximity to the Maston area, which is Bureau of Land Management land and home to several recreational trails and a wildlife conservation area. The airstrip would be about three-quarters of a mile away from the closest point of the area, according to county planning documents.
Many are also worried about the negative impact low flying aircraft could have on wildlife, especially golden eagles and mule deer.
“We’re losing wildlife habitat at an alarming rate,” Douglas Stout, who was representing the Bend chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, said in the hearing. “Please keep north Tumalo wildlife-friendly.”
Polvi said in the hearing he did not want to be the person who “moves here and ruins it for everyone,” and said respecting the natural area was important to him.
“I love the river, and the last thing I want to do is impact that,” he said.
Anyone who wants to share an opinion about the proposal can submit public comment to the county by 5 p.m. Jan. 5. A decision by a hearings officer is expected sometime in February, Miller said.