Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Idaho Airpark Living

SilverWing at Sandpoint is a gateway to mountain adventure

Shortly into the development of the airpark, progress came to a stop when the FAA argued that these airparks were unlawful because of the FAA's "through-the-fence" policy. The term refers to hangar-homes that have access to a public-use airport's taxiways and runways, but aren't airport businesses. A residential airpark on airport property is a "through-the-fence" arrangement. From 2009, the FAA disagreed with this type of arrangement at federally funded airports, and would slap an airport with an "out-of-compliance" designation, severely curtailing sales activities at the airparks.

Natural-stone walls and timber beams adorn the interior of the luxury model home at SilverWing at Sandpoint Airpark.
In May 2011, The FAA published an interim policy allowing such use as long as the airport developed a plan to deal with the federal standards set for things as security, safety, sustainability and other issues. After much argument and complex wrangling, the FAA further refined the policy in February 2012, resulting in bill H.R. 658. The bill is part of the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act and has already passed the House and Senate, and was signed into law by President Obama in February 2012. The bill protects airports from losing federal funds due to through-the-fence agreements. This important victory gives SilverWing—and airparks like them—the green light to continue development.

Our Visit
We got our taste of SilverWing as the summer was heaving its last breaths and a faint crispness was in the evening breeze. From the air, SilverWing is easy to miss, with just one large structure built (the huge model home), and a curious pattern of lot outlines awaiting their buyers.

"Three lots and the completed shell hangar unit have been sold," Mike Mileski summarizes as he gives us a tour of the model. Mileski is one of the partners in the SilverWing development. "Once 1⁄3 of the lots are sold, we have plans to start the recreational facility," he adds. The model home looks like a Grand Teton Lodge in miniature. River rock and natural stone adorn various walls, while heavy, natural timber beams imbue the interior with a warm, "mountain home" feel. Even the colors mimic the view from the massive round portal window in the entryway.

This model is one of seven the buyer can choose from. The hangar-homes will range from 2,100 to 4,300 square feet and can be built on lots that start at about $95,000. A finished hangar and residential shell on a fee simple lot can start at $420,000, with the largest-size hangar homes on the biggest lot expected to be closer to $3 million. The fully furnished model home is listed at $1,875,000.

"We're looking at buyers who share a common love for general aviation," Mileski tells me. "This kind of development—an airpark right on a public airport—could probably never be built again. This is a unique opportunity." While Mileski talks, the sound of an Antonov An-2 fills our conversation—it's based at Sandpoint—and reminds me of the best part of SilverWing: rolling out of bed and into the seat of your favorite airplane. The taxiway is right outside the living room window, and the runway is just beyond that. For pilots, it's heaven.


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