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Marin County Planning Commission Rejects Tighter Restrictions, Vacates Three Current Restrictions
At a four-hour hearing last Monday of the Marin County (CA) Planning Commission, the panel not only did not impose tighter restrictions on seaplane operations in Richardson Bay, but voted to recommend the city vacate three existing restrictions because they violate federal law.
The Marin County Independent Journal reports that some 250 people attended the meeting, and the majority spoke in favor of Seaplane Adventures, a sightseeing and flight training business operating out of the seaplane base on Richardson Bay. The business had been the target of complaints from homeowners living in houses, apartments and condominiums that have grown up around the bay over since the business was established in 1953.
The homeowners said that Seaplane Adventures was in violation of its operating permit because it had increased the number of operations it conducts on a daily basis during the summer flying season, and operating more than two planes for revenue-generating purposes. They also said that the aircraft being used by the business exceeded the 86-decibel level by up to 2.5 dB.
In 2015, the county hired aviation consulting firm BridgeNet International to monitor compliance with the permit at random times. The firm did find that on at least two occasions, the planes did exceed the 86 dB limit required by the permit. But planner Jeremy Tejirian said in a report to the commission that with the ambient noise in the area, a 2.5 dB increase would be "imperceptible to the human ear." He added that BridgeNet concluded in its survey that Seaplane Adventures was in "substantial compliance" with the conditions of its permit, which was issued in 1981.
Seaplane Adventures attorney John Sharp told the commission that federal law preempts the permit's conditions of approval, particularly where noise limits are concerned.
The commission finally came to the conclusion that it does not have jurisdiction in the matter. Commissioner David Paoli said there was nothing the commission could do. "Our hands are tied," he said.
Rather than imposing new restrictions, the commission voted unanimously to recommend to the City Commission that it eliminate three of the current restrictions on the business, including the noise limit, because the contradict federal law.
Tejirian told the homeowners that they could appeal the decision to the FAA.