New helicopter companies offering tourist rides along the Grand Strand will have to operate from a public airport, however an existing tour business has seven years to make the move under a new rule unanimously approved by the Horry County Council.
The new ordinance has been in the works since last year to address noise complaints, particularly from residents who live in Plantation Point near Helicopter Adventures.
Residents say that the noise drowns out normal conversations, interrupts sleep and causes fatigue that results in poor performance at school, work, and sporting events, and has the potential to reduce property values.
The ordinance passed Tuesday and grandfathers in Helicopter Adventures to allow the company to remain at its current location at 21st Avenue North near Broadway at the Beach, to fulfill its lease obligation with Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. through August 2023, said Arrigo Carotti, county attorney.
Helicopter Adventures representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
County officials have expressed concern about the safety of helicopter touring businesses, and say that companies would operate more safely from public airports to ensure quick response times when emergencies occur during take-offs or landings.
Mark Lazarus, council chairman, questioned whether the ordinance would encourage more helicopter touring businesses to open along the Grand Strand.
What prevents us from having an onslaught once this is approved of helicopter operators wanting to operate out of our airport?
Mark Lazarus, chairman, Horry County Council
“What prevents us from having an onslaught once this is approved of helicopter operators wanting to operate out of our airport?” Lazarus asked. “We’re not going to have kiosks popping up all over the place and hundreds of people in and out of the airport?”
Carotti responded that a proliferation of helicopter tours could have occurred before the ordinance passed, and would not necessarily increase in numbers because of it.
The new ordinance acknowledges that the rides and air travel in general are important to the economic success of the Grand Strand, but states that a balance is needed to address complaints from residents and ensure that safety risks for crews and passengers are minimized.