After almost four hours of public testimony from those in support and opposition of Clearwater Analytics Co-Founder, Michael Boren's private airstrip in the Sawtooth Valley, the appeal brought forward by neighbors was denied by the Custer County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.
The board stated they stand behind their decision of granting Boren a conditional use permit in May.
You can watch a past live stream of the meeting here:
Stanley residents are speaking out over an airstrip owned by Clearwater Analytics co-founder Michael Boren they say is being used illegally.
Boren, the owner of Hell Roaring Ranch in Stanley, flies his aircraft and lands on his private property. However, those in opposition say he started the entire process without the permits needed in the Sawtooth Valley and accused him of not properly following the legal process.
The Advocates for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area are now trying to appeal that Boren’s conditional use permit was approved earlier this year.
“This has been the most egregious violation that I think any of us have seen,” nearby landowner Patsy Nickum said.
In May, the Custer County Planning and Zoning Commission approved Boren's conditional use permit for his private ranch in Stanley.
“We are in full compliance with all of the laws and regulations relating to our ranch. Both federal laws, state laws, but also and especially, county laws,” Boren said. “We use a pasture as an airstrip, not really as an airstrip, we land as a pasture. We don’t land in the same place very often.”
The board’s conditions of approval state the pasture where Boren lands his planes must remain status quo, meaning the pasture can't be paved like a typical runway unless approved by the board again.
“There is an appeal. I wanted to say, it's not an appeal as far as we know by a group of neighbors. It's an appeal by a group of activists who don’t know us and haven't been on our property and haven't taken the time to get to know us,” Boren said.
Nickum has lived in Stanley for about 20 years and lives just east of Boren's property.
“I’m definitely in his flight path when he goes to some of his other properties so I have experienced multiple flyovers at low elevation,” Nickum said.
Andy Munter said he lives right down the road from the Hell Roaring Ranch and claims Boren's use of the planes is disruptive, but the way the process has worked has frustrated him the most.
Munter claims Boren denied ever having a landing strip for years and that he was building a hangar on his property.
“There's just so many reports of him flying very low, and I'm not sure there are any tight regulations about that, but it's a lack of respect for one of the really special places in Idaho," Munter said. “For the last 20 years, when we hear a helicopter, it's about an air ambulance or about a fire, and all of sudden, seeing a red helicopter flying around and flying low, it's a disruptive thing.”
The Advocates for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area say flights are constant and they want them limited. They also claim an airstrip on Boren's ranch violates a scenic easement on the property and claim an airstrip was already built before Boren got approval.
“After your purchase of this property in 2016, you began to develop the property without seeking concurrence from the Forest Service that your planned developments would be compliant with the terms and conditions of the scenic easement and the private land regulations that are attached to and made part of the scenic easement. Unfortunately, there are now several aspects of the development that are not consistent with the private land regulations," according to a letter from United States Department of Agriculture Area Ranger Kirk Flannigan sent to Boren.
Boren said he doesn’t plan to develop a full airstrip or runway. He said he made irrigation improvements to reduce water usage on the property, but nothing that would change aircraft use.
“Way too many things were missed in the original CPU application in how he filled it out and he was maybe taking liberties in some truths,” Munter said.
“All along, what our appeal has tried to accomplish is not necessarily to get rid of this airport. It's here. It's probably going to stay. But, how do we let the Forrest Service know and the County Commissioners know that the whole process did not work designed to work and how do we prevent it from happening in the future?” Munter said.
“This ranch has a scenic easement on it which in many ways is a very good thing. We spent a lot of time researching this ranch and trying to understand it ecologically and understand how wildlife interacted with the ranch and what you are able to do and not able to do on the ranch,” Boren said.
The Custer County Commissioners will hear an appeal at 7 p.m. on August 25. Public testimony will be allowed.