Planners deny helipad request

COSTA MESA — A local developer's proposal to add a helipad on top of an office building next to John Wayne Airport should be scrapped because it would open the door for other businesses to do the same, the Planning Commission recommended this week.

In denying Kevin Coleman's request Monday to build a 6-foot helipad on top of an office building at 3132 Airway Ave., commissioners said they are avoiding setting a precedent and expanding the airport's perceived "footprint" on Newport-Mesa.

"There's no benefit to Costa Mesa," Planning Commissioner Sam Clark said. "We don't get anything out of the deal. We get an individual who can fly a helicopter into his facility. He's not a hospital. It's not an emergency need. No one is going to live or die based on this heliport."

Indeed, Coleman said the helipad is solely to accommodate the building's new tenant, Leading Edge Aviation Services, an aircraft painting company.

Leading Edge's owner currently flies clients to a hangar about 200 yards away, within JWA's property.

Coleman's request, and the helicopter's flight path to his property in the city's industrial end, was OKd by the Federal Aviation Commission and the Airport Land Use Commission.

As his request has gained momentum, so has its opposition. A Newport Beach city official sent a letter criticizing the request to the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, as did attorneys for AirFair, a community organization that opposes JWA expansion.

Critics argue the helipad would expand JWA's footprint on the community, even if it was landing on private property just outside the airport, and lead to other neighboring businesses to make similar requests.

The commission staff report suggested the commission approve the request because the helicopter wouldn't violate noise limits and did not expand the airport's footprint — which staff defined as the airport's property, discounting noise and other environmental factors.

"It's an incredibly myopic definition of a footprint," commission Chairman Colin McCarthy said.

With his request dying before his eyes, Coleman tried to reason with the commission.

"Where it lands does not indicate a growth of John Wayne Airport," he said. "If this helicopter was to leave John Wayne Airport and land at Hoag [Hospital], would that be considered an expansion? We wouldn't be having this conversation if it wasn't next to the airport."

The commission recommended denying the application. The recommendation next goes to the City Council, which could take up the issue next month.

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