Voting on helicopter noise limits

Petition seeks ban on Saturday flightseeing, limits other times

Posted: Monday, May 01, 2000

A group of flightseeing industry critics has concluded it can't work through the system and must take its concern about helicopter noise to the ballot box.

The Peace and Quiet Coalition proposes to ban flightseeing on Saturdays from May through September, to limit hours to 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on other days during the tourist season, and to prevent the Juneau Assembly from approving new heliports without guarantees that noise won't increase. The proposed ordinance also would bar the use of public money for heliport studies.

The five-member group formally started the ballot initiative process today with a filing in the city clerk's office.

Group spokesman and Thane attorney Ray Preston faulted the assembly for settling for discussions of ``voluntary compliance'' by the industry.

``We've gone to all the meetings; we've talked to all the assembly members,'' Preston said this morning. ``We've done all that I think could be asked or expected. . . . It's a shame the assembly has not responded to this in a meaningful manner.''

The initiative petition was signed by Preston, downtown residents Mary Ann Parke and Kim Metcalfe-Helmar, Douglas resident Patty Ware and Mendenhall Valley resident Connie Trollan.

After the petition is approved by the city clerk and initiative booklets are printed, the Peace and Quiet Coalition would have 30 days to gather the necessary 2,165 signatures to put the flightseeing restrictions on the October general election ballot. Those signatures are equal to 25 percent of the turnout in last year's election.

Once the necessary signatures are certified, the assembly would have the option of adopting a substantially similar ordinance in lieu of having the ballot question.

Against the often-heard complaint that flightseeing critics are ``whiners'' who don't appreciate the benefits of tourism to the local economy, Preston said: ``I don't appreciate that type of name-calling. We're talking about people who simply want to make use of their property, as others do.''

Assembly member Tom Garrett recently asked the city attorney to look into amending the election code to tighten up review of petitions submitted to the city clerk. An ordinance under consideration at tonight's meeting wouldn't affect the coalition's already filed initiative, however, said City Clerk Laurie Sica.

Preston's initiative wouldn't directly implement noise abatement, because of federal preemption of the issue. Instead, it would ask the U.S. Forest Service to dramatically reduce permitted helicopter landings on the Juneau Icefield.

Staff writer Fern Chandonnet contributed to this article.

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