Industry benefits, noise study touted

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2000

The city is powerless to regulate noise generated by aircraft aloft and may have to continue to rely on flightseeing operators' voluntary compliance to quiet things, at least for the 2000 tourist season.

That was the message the deputy city manager, the city attorney, the community development director and the city tourism coordinator presented to the Juneau Assembly's Planning and Policy Committee on Monday.

The foursome's list of recommendations ``is a major step forward,'' said committee member Jim Powell. ``We've now moved from discussion to action items - incentives and disincentives for the industry, letters about our intentions to the Federal Aviation Administration. Now's the time to take some action.''

The effects of the action recommended, however, may be more on the future than on this year's noise levels.

Recommendations include hiring an acoustic consultant to measure noise at the Juneau Airport, surrounding areas and possible heliport sites, at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000, according to Community Development Director Cheryl Easterwood.

Funding from the study could come from passenger fee revenues ``to the degree that flightseeing passengers are also cruise ship passengers,'' said Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce.

``The difference between this year and last year is there is a different level of effort,'' she said. ``This year (flightseeing operators) are all sitting down together and working as a group.''

In a section dealing with possible action for the 2000 tourist season, the memo looks to ``voluntary compliance'' by flightseeing operators, the standards for which have been arrived at in the past through negotiations with the city's Tourism Advisory Committee.

That chore has been taken from the TAC is now the responsibility of Planning and Policy, said committee chairman Tom Garrett.

Garrett said he plans to hold a public hearing March 2 that will deal with ``voluntary compliance measures for flightseeing noise mitigation.''

But Tourism Advisory Committee member Kim Metcalfe-Helmar objected that no immediate action would be taken to solve noise problems. ``I'm not against the study,'' she said. ``But this is just business as usual, that is, we can't do anything this year because we have to gather data.''

Metcalfe-Helmar also objected to the list's recommendation that the flightseeing industry be given incentives - including sales tax exemptions and zero-rent leases.

``These are immensely profitably businesses,'' she said. ``Nobody would think about that kind of incentive for other businesses.''

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