Elk Grove pilot wants a backyard helicopter pad

Published: Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 7, 2013 - 12:18 am

John Hamilton of Elk Grove wants to fly his helicopter in and out of his backyard.

No big deal, from his perspective. Hamilton, owner of a 2-acre spread on Corfu Drive, has done it numerous times over the years as part of his small charter business. He's got a big swath of flat grass out behind his pool, with a helicopter barn in the rear.

Not surprisingly, some neighbors on the rural east side of Elk Grove have complained about the noise and low flyovers, prompting city officials to order Hamilton to stop in 2011.

Now, Hamilton has filed a request to change city code to allow for heliports in rural Elk Grove backyards. The issue alights today at the Elk Grove Planning Commission meeting, 6:30 p.m., at City Hall on Laguna Palms Way.

Hamilton runs Sacramento Executive Helicopters, in business since 1986, according to its website. Hamilton declined to be interviewed, but spoke briefly with The Bee, pointing out that he flew in and out of his yard – near Calvine and Excelsior roads – without problems in the past, prior to the formation of the city of Elk Grove.

He now bases his company's helicopter at Rancho Murieta Airport, a dozen miles east, city officials said.

Hamilton has submitted a petition signed by 14 neighbors with the simple request: "Please allow John Hamilton to operate his helicopter from his residence."

He is opposed by others who live in the area, among them Mark Fetler, who sent an email to the city last year complaining about the noise from landings and takeoffs, including night operations.

"I understand that Mr. Hamilton has a business to run and would prefer the convenience of his own home, even though it adversely impacts his neighbors," Fetler wrote. "However, I do not believe that asking him to use the services of a regular, legal airport constitutes an undue hardship."

In a staff report, Elk Grove city planner Christopher Jordan recommends the Planning Commission deny Hamilton's request, saying a heliport does not appear appropriate in the area, where grassy spreads are usually home to cows and horses.

"It is inconsistent with the city's vision for the rural area as adopted by the council," Jordan said.

He cited safety concerns, noise issues and gas fueling issues, and noted that a Federal Aviation Administration advisory suggests industrial, commercial and business areas may be the best sites for heliports.

Hamilton recently applied for permission from Caltrans to build a helipad in his yard.

State officials said Hamilton needs their OK because he would fly his helicopter over nearby state highways, but they have deemed his application incomplete pending the outcome of his zoning request in Elk Grove.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

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