Noise, safety concerns could force heliport closure


Jan. 5, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 4, 2011 at 7:05 p.m.

A north Victoria man may be forced to shut down the heliport he operates in a residential area.

Police Chief Bruce Ure said he's received complaints from neighbors concerned about noise and safety associated with the landing pad.

"So, we evaluated it and determined it does violate the city nuisance ordinance regarding noise," Ure said. "It's what they call a loud and unreasonable noise."

Kenneth Kemp, who has a city permit for the heliport, said he received a letter from the city stating he would have to close the heliport by about April 1. But he said he's within his legal right to continue using the landing pad.

"I personally flew the Federal Aviation Administration people here this past weekend," he said. "They say I'm perfectly legal."

Kemp said he's been flying his Robinson Model R44 four-seater helicopter into and out of the heliport since 1992. The site is behind the city yard on North Navarro and is adjacent to Bingham Road in the Northcrest subdivision.

"I generally fly for the power-and-light type people a lot," Kemp said. "I do a lot of ranch related work and all agricultural type work."

He said that last year he flew into and out of the location about 15 times. He also said this is the first complaint he knows of about the location.

"I'm just one man trying to make a living," Kemp said. "The city is a lot bigger than I am."

Ure said that all heliports in Victoria must be approved by the police chief before a permit is issued.

"This and others have been approved in the past," he said. "But when we start receiving complaints, we have a responsibility to look into it."

He said it's his opinion that a helicopter that regularly lands in a populated area is a noise nuisance. Ure said the decision to revoke the permit would not affect other heliports in Victoria, including those downtown.

"They're not affected because we haven't received any complaints on them," he said. "Landing in a business area on top of buildings is quite different than landing in a residential area."

The Citizens Medical Center medical helicopter lands next to a residential area and near the Victoria College and the University of Houston-Victoria.

But Ure said that clearly falls under the umbrella of public safety interest.

Council Member Tom Halepaska, one of Kemp's city representatives, has asked the city staff to research how other cities handle situations like this.

"I'd like to see how other cities handle it and leave the police chief's authority in tact," said Halepaska, who is also a pilot. "Why reinvent the wheel?"



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