Taos County commissioners approved a controversial helicopter landing pad in Arroyo Hondo that is nearly complete after two years of construction.
In August 2016, Edmund Healy, an Arroyo Hondo resident and president of the Healy Foundation, sought county approval for a 14-space parking lot and a 50-foot-by-50-foot helipad, which are intended for exclusive use by the Hondo-Seco Volunteer Fire Department (located across Hondo-Seco Road from the helipad).
Taos County Planning Director Edward Vigil approved the application in December. That decision argued the helipad will benefit the surrounding community in emergency situations because the nearest helipads are about 10 miles away.
But Eli Sanchez, Patricia Trujillo and Raymond Trujillo, president of the Arroyo Hondo Community Association, appealed that decision, which was upheld by the Taos County Planning Commission in April. The residents appealed those decisions to the Taos County Board of Commissioners during Wednesday's (July 12) public hearing.
While a helipad is "not necessarily objectionable," it's the location that is the main issue, said appellant Alfred Trujillo.
"It's not compatible with surroundings," said Trujillo, who called the placement "awkward."
Appellants also brought up issues with changes made to acequias.
Hondo-Seco Volunteer Fire Department firefighters supported the helipad's construction and approval.
After more than four hours of presentations from Healy, his engineer, Sanchez and Alfred Trujillo, the commission unanimously upheld the prior approvals. Commissioner Mark Gallegos was not present.
Commissioners placed 27 conditions on the approval, including a lease with the fire department, compliance with federal aviation laws and state acequia laws, improving safety of the parking lot and creating an emergency plan for neighbors in the event of a helicopter crash.
The commission will review evidence the conditions have been met at a future meeting.