Juneau clerk certifies flightseeing initiative

Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- An initiative seeking to limit flightseeing noise has been certified for the municipal ballot.

City Clerk Laurie Sica said the Peace and Quiet Coalition turned in the required number of valid signatures, 2,165.

The measure proposes restricting commercial flightseeing tours to 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. from May through September and banning them on Saturdays.

The assembly now has 45 days to adopt the proposed initiative without any substantial change. If the assembly refuses, the initiative will appear on the ballot Oct. 3.

Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon said the chances of the assembly passing the measure were ''slim to none, at best.''

He said the assembly probably will approach the matter in the same way it dealt with a successful initiative last year to collect a $5 passenger fee on all visitors arriving by cruise ship.

''The voters are saying they want to vote on it,'' MacKinnon said.

Peace and Quiet Coalition spokesman Ray Preston said it was too early to talk about a campaign to win approval of the measure. But he too expects assembly members to take no action by ordinance.

''They have certainly shown a reluctance in the past to deal directly with the issue,'' Preston said. ''We were actually hoping that they would pass something and avoid a ballot contest.''

He said the issue has been around for years and many property owners have been adversely affected by noise from helicopters and small airplanes.

''With many of us, it's not so much the sheer decibel level of the noise, it's the fact that it's all day long,'' Preston said. ''There's just no letup. That exactly fits the legal definition of a nuisance.''

Rod Swope, vice president of Destination Juneau, a pro-tourism group that claims to represent more than 200 businesses, said it was too early for his side to talk about an election.

''We were waiting to see whether or not it was going to be certified,'' Swope said. ''We haven't made any decisions about a campaign.''

But the downtown store owner and former assemblyman repeated warnings that the Juneau airport could lose federal grants if it discriminates against one class of airport users.

''The city would stand to lose a considerable amount of funding,'' he said.

Initiative supporters say enforcing noise rules would not endanger Federal Aviation Administration grants.

Besides limiting the hours of flightseeing, the measure would allow new heliports only if developers showed they would not add to existing noise levels.

The assembly would be barred from expanding the number of areas where heliports could be built, and from spending money to study new heliports, including the noise they might cause. The initiative also requires that the city ask the U.S. Forest Service to cut back on the helicopter landings it permits on the Juneau Icefield.

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