Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport could face lawsuits from homeowners after a judge ruled the airport violated avigation easements against Rock Creek Master HOA regarding noise, according to Boulder County Court documents.
The home owners association, which is located in Boulder County northwest of the airport, has sued the airport and pointed to five easements it claimed the airport violated, but the court only ruled in favor of one.
“The Court finds that the contours of the 1988 Master Plan have been exceeded by the sustained operation of aircraft as shown by the Contours provided in the 2000 Master Plan,” Senior District Court Judge Stephen Enderlin Howard wrote in the bench trial order.
“Basically, the airport — the sound, the operations — violated (the easement) per the 2000 master plan,” said Diane Marsella of Rock Creek HOA. “They basically said it was 10 times as noisy as what was promised.”
Both parties filed appeals against the judge’s decision.
The HOA wants the ruling to include more homes. Marsella said out of the 2,804 homes, about 1,400 to 1,500 do not have aviation easements.
Whether households will sue, sue separately or sue as a class action lawsuit is unknown, Marsella said.
Marsella said the court’s decision is based on a noise model from 1998 when flight operations were less than what they are today. A new master plan, which the airport has not undertaken since 2011, would look into the noise levels.
Master plans are typically updated in 10-year cycles. Brian Bishop, deputy airport director, said there are plan updates from 2011, 2000, 1988 and 1977.
Bishop said the lawsuit is based off the 1988 master plan because that is the plan the agreements reference.
Charlene Willey of the Save Our Skies Alliance said the airport is putting off completing a master plan due to the lawsuit. She thinks airport officials want to avoid studying the noise so as not to be found liable.
However, Bishop said the airport has tried to complete a master plan for the past three years but the Federal Aviation Administration refuses to fund the effort.
“As soon as we get funding, we'll get a new master plan,” he said.
Paul Anslow, director of the airport, said they are at the will of the FAA.
A lot has changed at the airport and the surrounding communities since the last master plan was completed.
Noise complaints have risen by almost 492% in the past 10 years. According to Anslow, there were 481 noise complaints lodged in 2011 compared to 2,845 in 2021.
In 2011, the number of distinct households complaining was 84, making the average complaint per household 5.7. By 2021, the number of distinct households was 402, averaging 7.1 complaints per household.
Airport operations also have increased by almost 69%, from 119,353 in 2011 to 201,426 in 2021, according to Julie Story, a spokesperson for Jefferson County, under which the airport operates. That number includes aircraft taking off and landing.
At the same time, the surrounding communities — Arvada, Broomfield, Louisville, Superior and Westminster — have increased their populations by about 13%. The total number of residents of all communities increased from 299,295 in 2010 to 338,806 in 2019. From 1990 to 2019, there has been an overall 68% increase in population, according to Story.
Conflict of interest
At a May 9 Community Noise Roundtable meeting, Anslow said two noise consultants identified to study the issue at the airport dropped out due to a conflict of interest.
Westminster, Arvada, Boulder County, the city and county of Broomfield, Jefferson County, the city of Louisville, the Town of Superior and the city of Lafayette all voted to fund the consultants with $7,810 from each municipality.
One consultant would facilitate meetings at the CNR meetings and the other would provide aviation consulting services.
However, Bishop said the firm that was hired was supposed to give testimony for Jefferson County regarding noise for the Rock Creek lawsuit, though the testimony was not heard in trial.
Bishop said the airport is looking to replace them and hire new consultants.