If We are Going to File a Restraining Order Against Uber for Helicopter Flights, Let’s Start Enforcing Everything On the Books
If you’ve hiked Round Valley on a Saturday morning, it’s likely you’ve seen a white helicopter fly into town and set down in one of the housing areas to the northwest of Round Valley. In the last 3 years, I’ve seen the private helicopter (not to be confused with the medical choppers that land at the hospital) descend behind the mountains between Round Valley and Old Ranch Road 20 times. Yet, now Uber publicizes that they will make $200 per person flights from Salt Lake to Park City and the topic of restraining orders gets brought up. The Park Record has told us that Summit County is considering issuing a restraining order against anyone landing helicopters without a permit.
So, why now? Why this?
Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard of Uber helicopter flights for Sundance, I thought about safety. I’ve heard how hard it can be to fly around here, especially at night. However, that’s really an FAA issue. They control everything above 400 feet in our skies.
Yet, our government wants a permit for landing a few helicopters in what is likely a person’s permanent landing pad (that has existed for years) or is maybe even just a field. I also assume that all balloon companies (that we see flying every weekend in Summit County) also require a permit for each landing. Hopefully they all have whatever permit is required for landing in Summit County every weekend. If not, I would expect that to be enforced. Over the course of the year, I would expect balloon revenue to exceed Uber’s Helicopter-related revenue for this one weekend.
I understand residents’ concern over noise. It could be a nuisance, especially if you lived on the flight path. However, if this law is enforced, I would expect it to be enforced universally and all the time. If not, an action like a restraining order could be viewed as arbitrary and capricious just because Uber may interfere with local taxi cab business.
Overall, it highlights one of the problems with Summit County. We have lots of laws on our books that never are enforced (the best example is our sign ordinances). A law without universal enforcement at best goes unnoticed and perhaps confuses the populace. At worst, it can be used to stymie specific business interests.
That was a pretty weak set of arguments. Yes, they should be enforcing the laws all the time, but there is such a thing as prioritizing by the impact they are having. A helicopter that sneaks in once a year is not having the same impact as a commercial service running multiple helicopters nonstop. Your argument says not to bother chasing armed bank robbers unless you can stop every single little kid who steals a piece of candy. Hey, theft is theft!
When things are zoned as conditional uses, it gives the county (or city) the opportunity to examine the impacts (noise, safety, traffic, …) and require mitigation of those impacts. Uber contacted the county at low levels, apparently discovered the required process, and ignored it completely. If the county decided to let them keep running this week, you would be writing an emotional article about how bad that decision was.
As always, thanks for the reply.
I think you make a good point about the zoning. I was looking at it more from the standpoint of private helicopters land in Summit County all the time (and no government official has seemed to raise a fuss). I don’t think it’s a once a year sort of thing, as I’ve seen it regularly. That said, like many things, when money changes hands, it does become a commercial activity… and I assume whoever had control of land was getting something from Uber. So, you make a valid point there.
Yet, I keep coming back to the fact that balloons fly and land (who knows where) across Summit County every weekend. I would bet the income generated from ballooning for the entire year exceeds the Sundance weekend helicopter income. It’s definitely more frequent. Likewise, the impacts of balloon landings are great, especially if you’ve seen one come down in round valley, graze tree/bushes, and slide across the road in front of traffic heading to the ice rink (like I have).
I guess I look at it as if a balloon can land in Summit County, with no permit required for the land upon which it lands, and the balloon operator is obviously a commercial entity… how can it just legally land? Perhaps it’s a trespasser on the land? Perhaps they pay something to the land owners where they most often land? It just seems a bit of a double standard to single out UberCopters because it was the talk of the town and there was a story in the Park Record about it.
Likewise, you can say enforcement is based on “prioritizing by the impact they are having” and therefore some things won’t be enforced. However, I think the recent stories about Park City enforcing idling laws shows that “impact” isn’t actually the driving force behind many enforcement actions. It takes three idling offenses before a $100 ticket is written because a person idled for more than 60 seconds. Not that idling is good… but the “impact” of giving a warning, when no tickets have ever been written, and it takes three times to get a ticket, is pretty miniscule.
Yet, they made a big deal out of it and “enforced” it anyhow. Why? Not because they could make a major impact but because it was the soup du jour.
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