PF gives OK to further heliport prohibition
At the county’s request the Pigeon Forge Planning Commission is recommending some tweaking to the county’s zoning resolution, which would effectively squeeze heliports from the city’s planning region. The proposed amendment would allow heliports in a C-2 zone within the county, but sets out standards that would bar them from Pigeon Forge altogether.
To head off a possible loophole that would come once county zoning goes into effect, last month the Pigeon Forge Board of Commissioners passed on first reading an ordinance that prohibits heliports within the city limits.
Pigeon Forge City Attorney, Jim Gass explained the need for the city ordinance to the commissioners, saying that “in the original state act that’s been in place a number of years prohibiting heliport existence in certain areas of Sevier and Blount counties, there is a caveat that once the implementation of county-wide zoning takes effect it could impact that ordinance as to the ability of a heliport to operate within certain areas.”
State law, however, allows for cities and towns within tourist resort counties to implement their own regulations, which may be equal or more stringent than state law.
With zoning going into effect in the near future, the areas outside of the cities’ defined boundaries will be governed the county body. While the cities will retain jurisdiction over those areas, the county planning commission and subsequently the Sevier County Commission have final say over any changes to the zoning map in those areas.
The proposed amendment would allow heliports in the county’s C-2 zones, but sets out specific standards in order to be approved.
According to Jagger, the amendment has four different criteria that must be reviewed by the board of zoning appeals: heliports can not be located within nine miles of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; they can not be located with in 1,000 feet of any residence, school, place of worship; heliports adjacent to residential districts should maintain adequate buffering through trees or opaque fencing that’s at least 10 feet tall; and heliports can not be located within 50 feet of any property line or structure.
By keeping the nine-mile rule from the old state law, the county’s proposed amendment would also keep heliports out of its planning region, as a nine mile radius from Smokies border covers all of Pigeon Forge and its planning region.
The planning commission elected to recommend the county’s amendment, which will then need to be approved by the county commission to take effect.
The city’s own recently passed ordinance prohibiting heliports will receive a public hearing and second reading at the next city commission meeting scheduled for August 14.