By Ashley Rader
USA Helicopters’ request for a new helipad might have been denied, but the business owners say the company will continue on the same flight path despite the rejection.
CEO and president Mike Jolly and vice-president Erik Kitchens first asked Elizabethton’s City Council approve a helipad for the business in September. The decision was deferred until the January City Council meeting, when a motion to approve died from a lack of second.
But Kitchens said the business would continue to operate as it had been, selling helicopter parts and doing helicopter overhauls at its location in the Cherokee Industrial Park. The business had been requesting the helipad in order to do maintenance on site.
“We’re continuing with the meat and potatoes of the business,” Kitchens said. “As far as maintenance, we have been completely roadblocked.”
During the January meeting, council members expressed concerns over noise levels and public safety because the helicopters would be landing near a residential neighborhood and other businesses. Councilman Richard Tester was the only member to speak out in favor of the project.
Jolly and Kitchens explained the 60-foot by 60-foot helipad would be a private landing and takeoff spot that would have a very limited number of flights per month.
According to Mayor Curt Alexander, the main issues council members had with the request were that the helipad would be close to a residential area and the helicopters would be flying and landing in an area near homes and businesses that see a high volume of customers.
“There are a lot of people in that area,” Alexander said. “Safety is the council’s main concern.”
He explained the helipad would be different from the air traffic already flying over Elizabethton because the helicopters would be landing in town rather than flying over it in an approach to the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
Kitchens said they made an effort to explain the business to the council members and said most were receptive. He said they had also printed out aerial views from online mapping sources highlighting the flight path the helicopters would use, showing the path was not over any homes.
“It is just a lack of knowledge and understanding,” he said. “We thought we would bring in more jobs to the area. Our customers would have brought more money into the city too. They would have stayed at a bed and breakfast, ate in our restaurants and shopped in our stores.”
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