Durango airport may start ticketing cars

Public safety cited for ordinance

Leaving your car in front of the airport terminal unattended soon may earn you a $15 parking ticket.

Last week, the La Plata County Board of County Commissioners approved first reading of an ordinance that would make the Durango-La Plata County Airport director the chief parking-enforcement officer. Director Kip Turner and whomever he assigns to be parking-enforcement officers would, under the ordinance, patrol the grounds and issue citations or summonses and complaints.

Turner, who was absent from the county business meeting April 8, had addressed the issue in a December meeting of the Durango-La Plata County Airport Commission. Turner said illegal parking in front of the terminal and in other locations at the airport has resulted in dangerous situations, including a woman hit by a car, meeting minutes state.

“There’s pedestrian-safety issues with people trying to cross to the parking lot with luggage and having to get between cars that are parked along the curb as well as the inability for emergency vehicles to respond in that curb lane where people are parking,” Commissioner Julie Westendorff said. “Finally, the concerns of (Transportation Safety Administration) that no other airport allows parking in those areas.”

Assistant County Manager Joanne Spina said the proposed ordinance is designed to improve public safety. The airport has a main parking lot, a credit-card lot and a rental-car lot. The rate is $7 a day but allows free parking for the first 30 minutes in the main parking lot.

The county passed an ordinance that allows the airport to establish parking zones, but not to enforce the zones. It’s been illegal to park in front of the airport terminal for several years.

“While it’s important that we do this for safety reasons and to be in compliance with federal regulations, it is a departure from what has become a decades-long tradition in La Plata County of pulling up in front of airport and running in,” Commissioner Gwen Lachelt said. “We want the public to be aware of this, and we’re going to ease into it, and we’re not just going to rule with an iron fist.”

The Airport Commission is scheduled to review the proposed ordinance April 17. The commissioners then would formally vote on the new code April 22, and it would go into effect May 24.

Fines for airport citations will be the same as those issued in downtown Durango for accounting ease – $15 at issue, doubled to $30 at seven days and doubled again to $60 at 30 days.

The commission held a public hearing on the ordinance. No one spoke.