Permit for Taos airport project moves forward

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A decision on whether to issue a permit for the expansion of the Taos Regional Airport is likely less than a month away.

Acting Taos County Planning Director Edward Vigíl notified town officials in a Dec. 3 letter that their application for a permit to move forward with the project was complete.

To download a copy of the letter, click here.

The town owns the airport and has been trying to get the $24-million project off the ground for decades.

Since the town first filed a permit application with the county in September, Vigíl has made repeated requests for additional information about the project.

The Dec. 3 letter is notable because it means, under county regulations, Vigíl has up to 30 days to either give the project his OK or deny the town's application.

The town has already secured a contractor for the first phase of the project, and the town has said the only formal hurdle remaining is the permit from the county.

Vigil's forthcoming decision will follow months of fierce debate over the merits of the project, and it will almost certainly be appealed.

Proponents of the project argue it will improve safety at the small airport and foster economic development. Critics counter the project will only benefit the wealthy and increase pollution in the area surrounding the airport.

In September, a group of Taos-area residents filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the expansion until the county adopts airport-specific zoning. Attorneys for the town and county say the governments are under no obligation to adopt such zoning.

A hearing in that case is not expected until early next year.

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