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Town to check legality of aircraft ban

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — A draft of an ordinance that would regulate low-flying aircraft over any land in the Town of Independence was presented to town council Jan. 8.

The town is considering the ordinance as an alternative to banning the aerial spraying of pesticides, which has raised some health concerns.

Town Attorney Roger Brooks said he is continuing to pursue information from the Pesticide Control Board to determine the legality of the ordinance.

“The definitions in the draft mimic those used by the Federal Aviation Administration,” Brooks said. “I believe it is our right [to regulate low flying aircraft].”

Brooks noted the ability to control aircraft flying below 1,000 feet. “One thousand feet covers our area needed,” he said.

The draft states that the town council “has determined that low-flying aircraft over or near lands located, in full or part, within the town limits of the Town of Independence poses an unacceptable risk to persons, animals, structures, and land within the town.”

It goes on to say that “the public health and safety require that the Town take action to protect those valuable resources.”

The ordinance would prohibit all aircraft flying over the Town below 1,000 feet and above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

The ordinance would include a lengthy list of exceptions, including:

• any aircraft providing emergency services which is landing in, or departing from, any emergency landing site

• any police aircraft, whether local, state, or federal, operating over land

• any locality-owned, state-owned, or federally-owned, or locality-contracted, state-contracted, or federally-contracted aircraft operating over land

• any aircraft providing pick-up and/or delivery of any person or persons which is landing in or departing from any landing site

• any aircraft that operates under a permit issued by the town for the purpose of removing hazards to either town property or utility services within the town.

Brooks told the council members to look over the ordinance carefully and bring him any changes next month.

In other business,

• accepted a list of 2008 officers for Independence Volunteer Fire Department.

The officers include new Chief John Smith, Assistant Chief Mark Taylor, Capt. Terry Osborne, First Lt. Gary Hash, Second Lt. Jerry Perry, Water Supply Jeremy Walters, President Roger Hash, Vice President David Wooten, Secretary Gary Bergeron, Treasurer Eddie Hensdell, Public Information Officer Tom Race and Chaplain Eddie Hensdell.

Council voted unanimously to approve the new officers, on a motion from Jason Cassell.

• heard Mayor Butch Reeves took ask council to consider helping obtain funds to purchase new equipment for the fire department.

“The newest pumper they have is 18 years old,” he said. “With the prison coming in, this might be the opportunity to get funds to get updated equipment.”

Reeves planned to ask Del. Bill Carrico for help.

Chief Smith noted that while the department had not had any major issues recently, in the past six months several minor repairs were needed.

“If that had happened during a fire, it would have really hurt us,” he said.

Smith thanked the council for the support and the assistance to provide funding for new equipment.

• held a public hearing on use of state Community Development Block Grant funds and for possible downtown revitalization. No comments were heard.

• paid monthly bills totaling $20,086.68.

• received a letter from the Virginia Department of Transportation, informing the town that Hackler Lane would be closed to through traffic of trucks. Signs have already been placed and the ruling is effective immediately.