Copter services under Raleigh council scrutiny

Staff WriterSeptember 19, 2007 

— The City Council agreed Tuesday to take a second look at whether a helicopter service and flight training academy that opened last month off Capital Boulevard meet the city's zoning requirements.

City Attorney Tom McCormick presented five recommendations related to Raleigh Heliport LLC, which operates on a 9-acre site near Interstate 440. The company's anchor tenant is Silver State Helicopters, a Las Vegas company that plans to operate a flight training academy on the property.

McCormick asked that a city zoning inspector review the case to see whether Raleigh Heliport's special-use permit allows for a school to operate on the site. He also asked the city to submit a Freedom of Information request to the Federal Aviation Administration to obtain all documents related to the heliport, and, if necessary, hire an aviation law consultant to assist with the review.

The city's Law and Public Safety Committee plans to consider whether future heliports should have to get approval from the City Council.

Raleigh Heliport received approval from both the city's Board of Adjustment and the FAA to operate.

Scott Moore, one of Raleigh Heliport's owners, said a flight school makes perfect sense at a heliport.

"We are not doing anything out of the ordinary at a heliport," Moore said.

Moore also said he is happy to show city officials Raleigh Heliport's letter of approval from the FAA.

"I have nothing at all to hide," he said.

McCormick's review of the businesses came at the behest of council member Jessie Taliaferro, who said several nearby residents had complained about the heliport not abiding by its designated hours of operation. The heliport is allowed to operate only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Moore has said those complaints are baseless.

In other business, the council voted 6-2 to approve a proposal for a new McDonald's restaurant on Peace Street, with council members Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson voting no. The franchisee plans to demolish the existing McDonald's and replace it with a larger, more modern restaurant. At its previous meeting the council had debated whether the new design was pedestrian-friendly enough. The design adopted Tuesday included additional outdoor dining along Peace Street.

david.bracken@ newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4548

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