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A concrete slab in the middle of a grass field might not seem like much, but when you talk about adding a helicopter into the mix, it gets a little more interesting.
That’s the case for Bozzuto’s Inc., a Cheshire-based company seeking permission to build a helipad on its property off Route 10.
On Monday, Feb. 9, the Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing to discuss the helipad application.
According to local attorney Anthony Fazzone, who is representing the company, the pad is at least 300 feet from all other property lines and is situated on an area larger than 10 acres, all of which meet the requirements of the Cheshire zoning regulations. According to Fazzone, the helicopter would be used to transport clients and company executives to a storage facility in North Haven and a warehouse in Pennsylvania.
“Corporate aviation has become very popular,” Fazzone said. “They will use the helicopter to transport key people to certain locations.”
Fazzone said there is also a proposal in front of the North Haven Planning Commission for a helipad, and a filing will be made in Pennsylvania shortly. It is estimated that there would be two round trips from Cheshire each day.
The company has already acquired a helicopter that will be stored at Bradley International Airport when not in use. Maintenance and fueling of the helicopter will also be handled at Bradley. The 20-by-20-foot concrete pad would be surrounded by grass and is more than 1,000 feet from the nearest wetlands area, limiting environmental impacts, Fazzone said.
During the hearing, Cheshire resident Ray Ilnicki voiced his opposition to the proposal. He explained that he was opposed to adding more noise in the area, and he also argued the proposal could endanger the neighboring residents.
“They are bringing the airfield to our front yard,” Ilnicki said, noting that Meriden Markham Municipal Airport was a few miles away. “It’s the convenience of one at the inconvenience of so many. It should not be allowed.”
According to the company, helicopter trips would occur during businesses hours, with an operating window of 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., except for unusual circumstances.
Tom Gleason, the pilot who Bozzuto’s has hired to fly the helicopter, explained his projected course of entry and exit from Cheshire. He cited “neighborly” programs that helicopter pilots use to limit noise to the surrounding areas. While there is no set course for a chopper to take in unrestricted airspace, Gleason said he mapped out an area that follows Interstate 691 and Route 10 before hitting the Bozzuto’s property. The type of helicopter Bozzuto’s acquired, a Eurocopter EC 135, carries six passengers and has an enclosed tail rotor that is supposed to limit noise.
“These are not jet-type sound levels we’re talking about,” Gleason explained. “We try to do our best to minimize noise levels.”
At take off, the helicopter emits a noise level of 87.8 decibels. The Federal Aviation Administration regulations permit up to 94.5 decibels. During flight, the helicopter produces 85.8 decibels and when it lands, noise levels are around 95 decibels, which are also within FAA regulations.
According to documents the applicant submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission, a train makes between 75 and 90 decibels, while a chainsaw produces sounds that are over 100 decibels.
According to the site plan, the Peck Lane area of Cheshire is more than 1,000 feet away from the proposed helipad, which should significantly limit noise to that area Fazzone stated. He added that the 36-foot rotor could kick up dust and debris in roughly a 120-foot area, which is roughly three times the size of the helicopter blades. Situated 300 feet, in all directions from neighboring properties, Fazzone believed the probability of damaging other areas was small.
Although the company only requires a smaller helicopter, Gleason explained that a larger, Sikorksy-type chopper could also land at Bozzuto’s. LIFE STAR services would also be granted access to the helipad, if there was an emergency event requiring helicopter support.
While the public hearing was closed on Feb. 9, the PZC decided it would be best to digest the information before rendering a decision on the application. The Commission is scheduled to meet on Feb. 23, but it’s unclear if a vote will be taken that night.