Editorial: Carolina Beach Working On Helicopter Amendment

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 21 September 2016 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

This has been the summer of news covering things that fly. An ordinance amendment to allow people to keep chickens at their homes. Last week's Duck controversy where some really passionate people got upset about releasing some ducks at the Carolina Beach Lake. And now... back to helicopters.

This year the Town of Carolina Beach has dealt with an ongoing controversy over whether or not to permit a company to offer helicopter tours from vacant land across from Town Hall. In May the Council heard from the owner of High Tide Helicopters of Oak Island, NC - Jessica Ward - about her proposal to operate that business on a limited basis.

Following a holiday weekend event in 2015 that generated a lot of complaints from area residents, the May 2016 meeting was filled with people opposing the idea of permitting such a business to operate. They cited concerns over safety and frequent noise impacting quiet enjoyment of their residential properties.

Ultimately the business owner submitted an application for a permit to operate the tour business on that vacant land near Town Hall on a limited basis. In the application letter her attorney argued the zoning ordinance permits such operations without need for a special permit and the use is considered to be permitted by right just as other outdoor amusement or recreational uses. He also indicated the ordinance permits schools as a permitted use and therefore flight training schools came under that same category in the Highway Business District.

Ultimately Town Manager Michael Cramer denied the application and then had to amend the letter denying the request to add another option.

Their options were to appeal his decision to the Board of Adjustments, request an ordinance amendment and the third option was to apply for a conditional use permit under a different business category.

On September 20th, Cramer informed the Council the deadline for the applicant to appeal his decision to the Board of Adjustment had passed at 5pm Monday September 19th.

In the interim, the Town had already started working on an amendment to the zoning ordinance to restrict such operations to an area off Dow Road in the industrial district if a conditional use permit was approved. Once the Planning Board considers the amendment at their October 13th, meeting, the Council could consider their recommendation on November 1st.

For now, the applicant can still apply for a conditional use permit which would also require review by the Technical Review Committee, Planning Commission and then Town Council. That's a three month process.

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