Push for helistop regs taking off in Bellevue | City Council to consider moratorium Monday
October 15, 2009 · Updated 4:10 PM
A movement in Bellevue aimed at putting the stop in "helistop" is starting to take flight.
The citizen group Bellevue Residents for Responsible Heliport Policy has been pressing the city to develop comprehensive guidelines for new helicopter landing stations.
Those efforts appear to be working, as the city council voted 4-3 on Monday to consider a moratorium on helistops. The proposed ordinance would not impact Kemper Development's efforts to operate a landing pad downtown at the Bank of America building.
The city's hearing examiner granted a conditional-use permit for the Kemper helistop, but that decision has been appealed to the city council.
A public hearing on the appeal will take place Nov. 2, 8 p.m. at Bellevue City Hall (450 110th Avenue Northeast). Only the appellants and parties of record will be allowed to present arguments.
"I'm somewhat sympathetic to the concern that we haven't really drawn parameters around how we would handle the cumulative impact of additional helipads," said councilmember Claudia Balducci.
Those calling for regulations say helistops should only be allowed in industrial areas, unless they're used for public safety or by hospitals.
Residents who oppose Kemper Development's landing station are concerned with potential noise and safety impacts.
"It's a private helistop," said Bellevue resident Lynn Terpstra. "It affects a lot of people, and only benefits a few."
But Kemper Development's sound tests have shown that noise impacts from the helistop would be comparable to bus traffic, and would not interfere with speech.
A SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) determination of non-significance was issued for the proposed station, meaning it is not expected to cause serious adverse impacts.
Bellevue developer John Su appealed the SEPA determination, but later withdrew his case. He is still one of two appellants in the appeal of the hearing examiner's decision to grant Kemper Development's conditional-use permit.
That permit would limit the number of helicopter landings and takeoffs to five per week, prohibit activity on Sundays and legal holidays, and restrict flight paths to freeways and Northeast Eighth Street.
It would also require Kemper Development to provide monthly documentation of flight frequency and times for the first year, followed by semi-annual reports after that period.
Additionally, a phone line and web site would put in place to take complaints.
Only light-turbine helicopters would be able to use the facility.