Helipad going before airport commission

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Suffolk Airport Commission will meet at 4:30 p.m. today to discuss the request of a local pilot to build a helicopter landing pad near the Suffolk Executive Airport.

Roger A. Leonard, of RSR Development Associates, Ltd., requested a conditional-use permit to build a helicopter landing pad for both private and commercial use, including helicopter flight training and charter/sight-seeing trips over the Great Dismal Swamp.

The property, at 1525 Airport Road, has the Suffolk Municipal Airport to the east, homes to the south and west, and undeveloped land to the north. Leonard, in his request, noted that the hours of operation would be from sunrise to sunset, or normal business hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the number of flights per day would not exceed 10 to 15.


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Leonard also said that the airport currently does not have a separate facility for helicopters and while his would be private, it could also serve the needs of the community for helicopter uses.

Because the proposal is compatible with land-use policies of the 2026 Comprehensive Plan, city Planning Department staff recommended commissioners approve the request as long as both the Federal Aviation Administration and the Virginia Department of Aviation review the proposal and determine how, if at all, operation of the heliport would impact the Suffolk Municipal Airport.

The request came before the Suffolk Planning Commission at its Nov. 21 meeting, but Airport Commission Chairman Rick Jackson asked that it be tabled until his group was able to meet and make a recommendation on the plan.

Planning commissioners first voted against the request, then agreed, in an 11-2 vote, to table it for 30 days to give the Airport Commission a chance to review and make recommendations on the plan.

The Planning Commission did, however, approve a similar request from Lockheed-Martin Corporation to install a helicopter landing pad at 7500 Harbour View Boulevard.

The Airport Commission has all powers necessary or convenient to carry out the general purpose of long-range planning for operations and capital improvements at the airport, and can make recommendations to city council and airport management on airport operations. The group had met earlier that month, but did not have a quorum to take any action on Leonard’s plan.

Finding a meeting time that all Airport Commission members could agree on proved difficult this month, too. Their meeting last week was canceled because they couldn’t muster a quorum.

The Airport Commission members are: Brian Martin, Chuckatuck; Aaron B. “Rick” Jackson, Cypress; Bryan K. Holland, Holy Neck; Evelyn Jones, Nansemond; Jackie R. Taylor, Sleepy Hole; Daniel Frohman, Suffolk; and George M. McClellan, II, Whaleyville.