The Barton Hills Neighborhood Association drafted a resolution opposing a proposed helicopter landing site on top of a parking garage at Barton Oaks Plaza III, 901 S. MoPac, and sent the resolution to Austin City Council members Oct. 28.
Melissa Hawthorne, president of the Barton Hills Neighborhood Association, said the community is upset about the amount of noise the helicopters would generate during Formula One race weekend, which runs from Nov. 16–18, and the lack of public input in the process of selecting the site.
“The majority of the complaints I've received [about Austin City Limits Music Festival], besides parking and accessibility, were the banner planes that flew around the neighborhood,” Hawthorne said. “They were louder than the music during the day.”
Hawthorne said the neighborhood association was not notified of the proposed landing site and learned about it through a news publication.
The proposed temporary helicopter landing site is expected to make 200 flights to and from the site during race weekend. The site will be in operation from 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Because the site is temporary, the helicopter company is not required to apply for a conditional use permit, to provide aerial photographs marked with noise-sensitive areas within 4,000 feet or to report anticipated noise levels at the site.
The resolution drafted by the neighborhood association “urges the City of Austin to require the U.S. Grand Prix organizers to provide sufficient alternative transportation” for the event because the community has been supporting tourism-generating events and bearing its “fair share of the burdens of densification.”
According to a memo from Jim Smith, executive director of the city's Aviation Department, to the council dated Oct. 29, the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over airspace, and the Federal Aviation Administration develops plans and policy for the right to use airspace.
The memo states that a general analysis of the site estimates an annual Day-Night Average Sound Level of 51. The FAA's general guideline for a residential area near an airport is a level of 65 DNL.
During the Oct. 18 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Laura Morrison asked Smith about the path helicopters might take from the proposed site and the amount of noise that would come from them.
“The airport really has no direct involvement with the routes,” Smith said during the meeting. “The FAA has a full-time staff person that is working with Formula One. They have laid out all the routes for helicopter operations that they are aware of. … They control the flight paths of those helicopters.”
The proposed flight path from the MoPac site follows highways, including I-35, U.S. 290 and SH 45 to reduce the noise impact on the community, according to the memo.