Whitefish aims to tighten helipad rules

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Complaints over the summer about private helicopters landing in Whitefish residential neighborhoods has prompted the city to propose new rules regulating how heliports and helipads are handled in Whitefish.

A public hearing at tonight’s City Council meeting will consider an ordinance to allow heliports and helipads as a conditional use only in Whitefish’s agricultural zones where a 15-acre minimum lot size provides a buffer from neighboring properties.

The changes further would require the takeoff, landing and parking of manned helicopters on a surface with dust-proof material. The ordinance doesn’t affect landing drones within the city.

Last year the city had a request for a private helipad on the roof of a Whitefish Lake residence, but denied it because of building code concerns, according to City Manager Chuck Stearn’s council report.

“These proposed changes address regular usage of a private property by aircraft,” Stearns said. “It was not intended to address sporadic usage on unimproved sites, as that is very difficult to enforce.”

The Federal Aviation Administration regulates the design, siting and use of helipads. Those wanting to build a helipad, even for private use, must submit a proposal to the federal agency for review and approval.

The council has several other public hearings on the agenda that all deal with the rezoning of parcels of property around Whitefish Lake from county to city residential zoning.

A request from the Pedestrian-Bicycle Trail Advisory Committee to increase the cost of the Skye Park Bridge trail project by $77,000 will be considered. The extra money would pay for a stone veneer on the retaining walls and bridge abutments.

The next step in the City Hall construction project will be determined. An addendum to the city’s contract with Mosaic Architecture would authorize the schematic design and design development for a total cost of $318,369. The costs would be paid from the City Hall construction reserve fund.

The council will hold a work session and dinner meeting with the North Valley Hospital board of directors and staff at the Professional Office Building, 711 E. 13th St. from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

The council meeting begins at 7:10 p.m. at Whitefish City Hall.

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