by Alan McArthur
Initial approval was given for the construction of a new helicopter landing pad at The National in Parkville.
The proposed heliport will be located near Birkdale Drive and Allen Way at The Lodges At The National. It will be just north of the tennis courts, southeast from the pool and about 600 feet away from the clubhouse. A current sand volleyball court at the location will be moved to accommodate the new facility.
The new heliport will function as a private facility requiring prior permission for landings from Dale Brouk, chief operating officer/chief financial officer for The National Golf Club of Kansas City. The site will also allow for air ambulances to land for emergencies.
Stephen Lachky, community development director, told the board of aldermen that the city has been working on this project for about six months. The location for the heliport was selected to have the least impact on the neighborhood.
Lachky described the proposal as being a 45-foot diameter concrete pad with lights for emergency night landings that are activated by the pilot when needed. The flight paths for the helipad are shown to the east and also to the south of the site. Pilots would choose the best approach based on the weather.
The path to the east would pass over the neighborhood along Blair Road, while the path to the south would cross the driving range and go just west of The Links at Parkville apartments.
The proposed pad is still pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the guidelines are written for operation or any construction could begin.
Dave Rittman, alderman, told the board that he is a pilot and has spent many hours flying helicopters and has landed at similar sites on golf courses.
“What is missing here is the hours of operation for general aviation,” said Rittman. “Either a limit from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. or a sunset to sunrise restriction.”
Rittman said that without those restrictions then sometimes there can be problems with pilots landing whenever they want and disturbing neighbors.
Lachky said the helipad would operate with similar procedures to the Trump Doral Golf Course. The National's owners hired the same consultants who established the helipad to create plans and procedures for the helipad at The National.
One of the main reasons for the desire to construct a helipad is for the marketability of the neighborhood. The National would be one of very few golf clubs in the Kansas City area with a helipad, said Lachky.
Nan Johnston, mayor, expressed concerns about the conditional use permit (CUP) proposed for the site not having any expiration. She used the example of mining on the Park University campus.
“The mining was not as close to residents in the 1980s (when the CUP was approved) and now it is a health and safety issue and we have no recourse,” said Johnston. “What if in the future it becomes upsetting to residents?”
Brouk, in addressing the concerns, said they had designed the helipad to accommodate the largest emergency helicopter operating in Kansas City.
“You couldn't land a Donald Trump sized helicopter there,” he said.
“If I started getting a lot of heat from residents or complaints, then I'm going to put in restrictions. We still have a lot of lots to sell.”
Brouk said that it would not be in The National's best interest to allow the helicopters without restrictions and have residents complain or wanting to move from the neighborhood.
According to Brouk, any pilots requesting to land will have to provide an exact 30-minute time frame window and that he will notify residents directly affected that a landing will occur.
Marc Sportsman, alderman, said he would feel more comfortable with a timeframe where the CUP would have to be reviewed and renewed.
Brouk said the owners would not feel comfortable putting in the money for the construction if it could become useless in a few years. He said they would be comfortable with an automatic renewal of the CUP after 15 years as long as all of the requirements and guidelines have been followed.
The board approved the first reading of the CUP with the 15-year review and automatic renewal. The final reading for the CUP will be on the agenda at the board's next meeting on Feb. 7.