Facebook   Twitter   Instagram
Current Issue   Archive   Donate and Support    
Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airports noise roundtable grounded over lack of progress, trust

Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airports noise roundtable grounded over lack of progress, trust


By Scott Franz, KUNC (Via AP Storyshare)

A group trying to address residents’ concerns over noise at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport voted Thursday to stop convening.

Five of the eight cities and counties serving on the so-called community noise roundtable hit eject citing a lack of progress and trust in the airport’s owner, Jefferson County. The roundtable was created in 2021 to identify the scope of noise issues around the airport and come up with mitigation measures.

But turbulence on the roundtable has been building in recent months.

First, there was the revelation in December that former airport director Paul Anslow faced complaints he privately called residents who raised concerns about aircraft noise “nut jobs.”

He was also quoted saying he wanted cities serving on the roundtable to “waste their money and time” trying to address the noise coming out of his airport.

“Cause here’s the deal, Centennial (airport) had a (noise) roundtable for 20 plus years, nothing gets done,” he was quoted as saying in a transcript KUNC News obtained from Jefferson County in an open records request. “It just makes people feel happy that they’re part of the roundtable and they get to bitch.”

The comments offended roundtable participants and fueled recent calls from some residents and city officials to dissolve it, saying Jefferson County was participating in bad faith.

Then, in March, Boulder County and Superior sued Jefferson County and the airport to halt noisy training flights.

In between those bumps, hundreds of residents under the flight paths have complained about a lack of progress and say the constant buzz of low flying planes makes it hard to sleep or enjoy their homes.

All of this turbulence became too much for the roundtable to endure. On Thursday, defecting roundtable members vowed to seek other methods to address the noise. The options floated range from working directly with pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration to battling the airport in court.

Some even proposed alternative future work groups to address the matter.

“I like the idea of coming up with a new organization that’s a little bit more cooperative and more expansive, and coming up with some other ways of having some kind of input for the public in the operation of airports,” Louisville City Council member Deb Fahey said before she voted to dissolve the roundtable. “But the (noise roundtable) just isn’t doing it for us.”

Two weeks ago, Louisville Mayor Chris Leh accused Jefferson County’s leaders of using the noise roundtable as a “smokescreen” to shield themselves from accountability for the noise problem while they pursued expansion plans at the airport.

“The behavior that we have seen out of (Jefferson County) for years is just not good policy and practice,” he said. “It’s just not what we ought to tolerate any further.”

Responding to the complaints, Jefferson County defended the work of the roundtable.

“In the last couple of years, the (noise roundtable) has improved the voluntary noise abatement procedures, introduced a procedure to request pilots use the primary runway during nighttime operations to avoid overflying residential neighborhoods, and secured funding from the Federal Aviation Administration for a Part 150 Airport Noise Compatibility Study,” county spokesperson Cassie Pearce said.

Arvada and Westminster’s representatives also wanted to continue the roundtable. Elected officials in those cities said the roundtable gave affected residents and pilots a place to discuss concerns and explore solutions.

But Louisville, Boulder County, Superior, Lafayette and Broomfield didn’t agree the roundtable has been effective. They were the cities and counties that said ‘enough’ and voted to terminate the group.

Traffic has increased more than 40% at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in the last two years. A group trying to address noise complaints voted to disband on Thursday, May 3, 2024, citing a lack of progress and trust in the airport’s owner, Jefferson County. (Scott Franz/KUNC)


Cities and residents calling to dissolve the roundtable say it has not achieved anything meaningful since it started meeting in 2021.

They point to increases in air traffic at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan and a lack of significant operational changes at the airport.

“We discussed a lot of issues in the three years since (the roundtable started) but we saw little recommendations result in action by the airport or Jefferson County,” Broomfield City Council member Deven Shaff said in March before his city voted to leave the group. “The noise roundtable is dysfunctional. It’s lacking support from our community…It’s lacking trust.”

Lafayette’s representative on the roundtable, David Fridland, said the group wasn’t allowed to push for flight curfews or landing fees at the airport, changes he said would actually have a chance of reducing noise. He concluded the roundtable simply lacked any power it would need to actually make an impact.

Residents who spoke at what became the last roundtable meeting on Thursday also said they had lost faith in the group.

“Please quit wasting time and money,” Westminster resident Charlene Willey said. “End this charade.”

Willey said she attended almost every noise roundtable meeting since it started, and it’s not just the constant buzz of airplanes that Willey has been trying to get relief from. She blames the heavy air traffic over her home for an increased level of lead in her blood. The Environmental Protection Agency recently proclaimed leaded fuel used by small piston-engine aircraft as a public health threat.

A final ultimatum

After months of tension and uncertainty, the roundtable’s fate appeared to be sealed Thursday by the community most impacted by the airport noise. Superior entered the final meeting with the swing vote, and an ultimatum.

Superior representative Jason Serbu said the community was willing to continue the roundtable, but only if several reforms were made. The town wanted the Federal Aviation Administration to start attending meetings. It also wanted Jefferson County to take on more accountability for the roundtable by paying for all of it and leading the group.

“Given what the former airport director Paul Anslow has said about the (roundtable) in the past, specifically, that he wanted neighboring governments to ‘waste their time and money’ on the roundtable, at a minimum, one way to correct this particular structural problem with the roundtable would be to have Jefferson County fund everything in connection with the noise roundtable, including member dues, staffing costs, and any other expenses,” Superior Mayor Mark Lacis told KUNC.

But with the roundtable on the verge of collapsing, Jefferson County Commissioner Tracy Kraft-Tharp wouldn’t give a definitive answer when she was asked Thursday whether the county would agree to that.

“I’m not in a place to say yes or no to any of those things,” Kraft-Tharp said. “That is a group decision.”

And so, seconds later, a motion to dissolve was made, the roll was called, and Superior joined Boulder County, Broomfield, Louisville and Lafayette to hit eject and cancel the roundtable.

Bri Lehman, a Lafayette resident affected by airport noise, said dissolving the roundtable will help affected communities work toward progress in the long run.

“I’m relieved we no longer have to participate in this farce,” she said. “We may now engage that time and energy in pursuit of actual solutions.”

She said some residents, including herself, have already started taking matters into their own hands and talking with pilots about how to mitigate noise.

“I’ve heard from members of the aviation community about the state using Division of Aeronautics funds to build some practice runways away from congested residential areas,” she said. “I look forward to pursuing actual solutions that might actually substantially affect our communities in a way that will benefit them, instead of continuing to inflict harm.”

Leave a Reply