By Kelly Werthmann
FORT LUPTON, Colo. (CBS4) – It was standing room only at the city council meeting in Fort Lupton Monday night.
Dozens of homeowners and county residents came to voice their opposition to a proposed project that would allow a big oil company to fly helicopters over their properties every day.
“Nobody wants this. Why is this even being considered? What’s the city’s benefit?” one homeowner questioned council members.
Halliburton wants to build a helipad on its compound in Fort Lupton. They’d use two large helicopters to transport crews early in the morning and late at night, several times a day. The company claims helicopters will be safer for employees who currently travel by bus, and it would reduce traffic congestion.
“We want to get our crews off those roads,” a Halliburton executive explained to council. “Safety is our top priority.”
Yet many homeowners are against the proposed project. They are worried about noise, property values, the well-being of livestock, environmental impacts and public safety.
“These helicopters are going to fly right over my house and I don’t care to listen to helicopters at 4 o’clock in the morning,” one upset resident said during a Fort Lupton City Planning Committee meeting last month.
When residents felt their concerns fell on deaf ears at multiple city planning meetings and the committee approved the proposal to go to City Council, they hired attorney Jim Campbell.
“This application is flawed,” Jim Campbell told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Campbell said the Halliburton’s proposal lacks oversight and regulation. He believes the oil giant is trying to ‘skirt the system’ by applying for a special, private use permit instead of getting a permit at an FAA regulated airport.
“If you count the numbers up,” Campbell said, “they’ll be carrying 52,000 people a year, potentially around the state of Colorado. That’s the size of an airport.”
Campbell explained that the city could require an environmental impact statement as part of their special use review, yet city planners did not do that when they received Halliburton’s application last year.
“That’s what we’re asking them to do,” Campbell said. “There has to be mitigation studies on vibration, mitigation studies on fumes, on waste. They’re going to be tracking dust, they’re going to be landing in potentially contaminated sites and bringing that back into the city. There’s a lot of things they haven’t looked at in this.”
Even though the helicopters have not moved in, the proposed plan is already keeping new home buyers out.
“We have had people already say, ‘We don’t even want to look in this area’,” Tammy Ellerman, a local realtor and Weld County resident, said.
Ellerman said it has been tough to sell and list homes in party of the county. She explained realtors have to disclose the ‘adverse conditions’ of a possible nearby heliport.
“I don’t think any of us want to live where helicopters are flying over our house every day,” she said.
While she doesn’t blame clients for avoiding Fort Lupton for now, Ellerman also said it also makes her sad. She’s called the Fort Lupton area home for more than 30 years.
“I’ve raised my family here,” she said. “It makes my heart hurt that this could destroy many people’s way of life.”
Several neighbors say they are not anti-oil and gas. Rather, they want to see their local government do more research on the project so big oil doesn’t overtake their small town.
“Citizens want to council to do their homework and due diligence,” Campbell explained. “Then council would find that this type of use doesn’t belong here. It belongs at an airport.”
After more than an hour of public comment, the city council decided to table the proposal until Sept. 17.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.