(This story was first published in the November 14, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
BARNARD — Despite an appeal that was brought to the town’s Development Review Board last April, a helipad application has been approved, with restrictions, by the Vermont Transportation Board.
The application was issued last spring on behalf of Monsalvat Farm Holdings, LLC, for a personal landing area for a helicopter at 1907 North Rd. in Barnard. It was approved by the board on Nov. 4.
Twenty-six residents contested the potential construction of a 50-by-50 foot, concrete surface that would lay a half-mile from an $18 million estate on Francis Road owned by John J. Noffo Kahn of Palm Beach, Fla.
The disagreement stemmed from neighborhood concerns about noise, night lights, and setting precedence.
Petition signers could not be reached for comment or declined to comment on the board’s recent decision.
By statute, and according to a certificate of approval of the board, the farm must still apply to the board and receive operational approval before aircraft can begin takeoffs and landings.
Construction, operation and maintenance of the project shall be in accordance with the plans, recommendations, and conditions approved by the board.
“Mr. Noffo Kahn is fully aware of the decision,” said Kevin Lessard, general manager of Monsalvat Farm. “We are happy with the decision, and I imagine the neighbors are as well with the restrictions that are a part of the board’s decision.”
Subject to further approval, for example, the farm is relegated to use the personal landing area in a safe and reasonable manner without imposing undue hazards on adjoining property or its occupants, or endanger the users or use of existing surface communications.
The farm is to obtain a determination letter from the Federal Aeronautics Administration acknowledging that the takeoff and landing of helicopters will not interfere with the operation of any public airport or with the safety of any state or federal airway. The personal landing area must conform to the requirements of Vermont Statutes of Title 5: Aeronautics and Surface Transportation General Provisions with respect to municipal approval.
In addition, the personal landing area cannot be used for takeoffs and landings by a person having less than 15 hours solo flight time experience and is limited to between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
The personal landing area is restricted to 60 round trips per year, with a round trip generally consisting of two trip ends for a total of 120 trip ends per calendar year. This area is also restricted to the use of transporting the owners of Monsalvat Farm and its guests and employees to and from the Farm and is not to be used to conduct or support commercial activity such as skydiving or any other activity except the transportation of passengers to and from the Farm.
Access to the personal landing area will be made available to emergency services, including but not limited to local and state medical, military, fire, rescue, and disaster relief services. Emergency use of the personal landing area does not count toward the 60-round-trip restriction and is not subject to the time restrictions mentioned.
Barnard Zoning Administrator Preston Bristow, who relayed to the public last spring that Noffo Kahn did not need a permit due to current town zoning laws that do not contain stipulations for airports or helicopter pads, expressed his satisfaction with the board’s recent decision.
“I have never had a situation like this go to the state Transportation Board before, and I was pleased that the Board listened to the concerns of abutting landowners and agreed to alter the helicopter’s proposed flight patterns, limit the number of trips per year, limit the hours of operation, and prohibit commercial use of the helipad,” said Bristow. “I thought it was a good decision.”
Lessard said impending future plans now include obtaining a use permit from the state. He said construction could begin within 4-6 months.
The helipad is slated to have a related access drive, parking area with turnaround, aviation lighting system, a 10-by-12-foot utility building, and windsock. There would also be an emergency recovery area on either side of the pad that would extend about 30 feet on all sides, according to Project Engineer David Marshall of Civil Engineering Associates in South Burlington, the company in charge of the proposed design.
Marshall said he plans to coordinate with the FAA and Vermont Agency of Transportation that would oversee the technical compliance.
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