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Myrtle Beach Helicopter Tour Dispute Spurs Likely Legal Battle

Neighbors Say Home Values Have Plummeted Since Memorial Day Opening

The dispute over a helicopter tour operation which opened over the Memorial Day weekend in Myrtle Beach, SC, is likely headed to court, as resident's living near the helipad say their home values have suffered as a result of the operation.

Plantation Point homeowner Rick Hinde said in a letter to the city Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) that "we basically now have an airport in our backyard," according to a report in the Myrtle Beach Herald.

The county zoning administrator allowed Helicopter Adventures to open after he said that they had obtained all of the necessary permits for the construction of a helipad near the neighborhood. But the reaction from the neighbors was almost immediate after the first flights were conducted in late May. Many of the homes in Plantation Point had been valued in excess of $500,000, but the homeowners say they couldn't get anywhere near that amount with the constant noise from the helicopter tours.

The next meeting of the ZBA is not until August. The board could rule either way, but Janet Carter, the county planning director, told the paper no matter which way that decision goes, the losing side is expected to proceed to circuit court.

Meanwhile, the county council is considering new zoning rules for any subsequent helicopter tour operator which may want to set up shop in Myrtle Beach, but that would not solve the current problem. Council member Marion Foxworth, who represents the district in which Helicopter Adventures built their helipad, said the options include changing the noise ordinance, using a "Nuisance Ordinance," which could force a business to stop operating if too many complaints are received, or adding regulations for single engine aircraft. That last option could restrict single engine aircraft from taking off or landing near a populated area due to "safety concerns."

Foxworth said all three options have their downsides. He said that the noise ordinance change could affect businesses other than the Helicopter Adventures, and that the nuisance ordinance had never been used in that way, but there is nothing in the law that would prevent it from being done.

Helicopter Adventures owner Freddie Rick said they have tried to be good neighbors, adjusting their flight paths and offering to meet with the neighbors. Rick said two meetings have been arranged, but the homeowners representatives chose not to show up. "We just don't know what else we can do," he said.

FMI: www.horrycounty.org/council/index.asp

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