Helicopters and Golden City Code

A while back, at the request of a bunch of folks, I said I’d inquire with city staff on the issue of how our existing code addresses helicopters.  As we suspected, there isn’t much.  Although the code prohibits “unreasonable noise” (Section 5.15.020), aircraft operated in accordance with federal laws and regulations are specifically exempted (Section 5.15.040(c)).

There seem to be two possible points of leverage under our existing code:  through the regulation of business activities (i.e., sale tax licenses) and through the zoning code.  The biggest problem is that I don’t think we can simply ban helicopter landings and take-offs, since air traffic is regulated by the FAA and it’s not clear that local governments can supercede their authority.  Just how much ability we have to regulate helicopters is unclear.

For this reason I’m inclined to stick with our current course of action, which is to wait and see how much of a disturbance their normal operations cause (compared to the considerable disturbance caused by their demonstration day).  If they really have as few flights as they’ve anticipated, it may be seldom enough that it doesn’t really cause any problems.  If their numbers go up, though, then we’ll need to sit down with them and figure how to make it work, acknowledging that federal law may give them the right to land and take off but that we probably have the right to adopt some limitations.

I hope that helps clarifies a generally complicated situation.


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