Editorial: Commercial Aircraft Issue To Continue Until January 2017

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 09 November 2016 05:00

Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council voted during the November 1st, meeting to delay a public hearing on a proposed amendment concerning commercial aircraft takeoff and landing facilities. The Planning Commission voted unanimously at their October 13th, meeting to recommend  Town Council prohibit aircraft takeoff and landing facilities within the town and allow it only for emergency and government operations.

The Commission considered a proposed amendment that would have permitted such operations in the Industrial (I-1) zoning district off Dow Road on the west side of the Island.

A notice was sent out the day before the November 1st, Council meeting alerting the public that the agenda item was removed from the Council's agenda.

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. Town Manager Michael Cramer denied the application. 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 September 19th.

The reasons presented by Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin during the November 1st, meeting to delay the issue were numerous but largely technical in nature. Although the North Carolina General Statutes give the Town the authority to regulate aircraft flights, Parvin said the proposed amendment language is preempted by federal regulations. The proposal from the Planning Commission would prohibit such operations on the ground but Parvin said the Town Attorney felt a statement would need to be included in the amendment as to why a specific use is being prohibited.

There are other reasons regarding how to properly define "aircraft" and a need to communicate with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as well as the U.S. Military that indicated they would have an issue with commercial facilities operating so close to U.S. Army Land off Dow Road.

The issue will go back to the Planning Commission at their December meeting and then back to Council in January.
First, the item shouldn't have been removed from the November 1st, agenda the day before the meeting. That assumes Council would desire the item be removed from the agenda but ignores the fact that people were planning to attend that public hearing and ultimately only the Council, by a vote, can remove such an agenda item. Not the Town Manager or his assistant.

Second, the Council should be prepared to receive the same recommendation from the Planning Commission in January to prohibit commercial aircraft businesses on the ground, which they do have the authority to prohibit. They just can't regulate aircraft in flight. People interested in the issue should continue to pay attention and hopefully the issue will be resolved in January, once and for all.


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