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Hotel wants a chopper pad

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Hotel Park City, the upscale lodge located steps away from the Park City Golf Course, wants City Hall to allow helicopter pilots to land on the grounds, a service that an official with the hotel says could be popular with travelers and developers.

But the idea, which has not been widely publicized, will likely raise concerns with people living in Thaynes Canyon, the sprawling neighborhood that surrounds the golf course and extends to Park City Mountain Resort.

The hotel recently filed an application with the Park City Planning Department to provide the service. The department has not conducted a detailed review of the idea, though, and the city’s Planning Commission must hold a hearing before a permit is approved.

"We’re just here to accommodate the guests," says Kevin Thorstenson, the general manager of the hotel, as he describes the interest in helicopter service from the site.

He says travelers could use the site to fly by helicopter from airports in Salt Lake City and Heber. Developers could use it when they take helicopter tours of projects in the Park City area, he says.

Ron Fisher, a co-owner of a helicopter firm that wants to land and take off from Hotel Park City, says the helicopter could pick people up at the airports instead of having them drive or take shuttles to Park City, reducing traffic in the area.

"It’s to alleviate a lot of the traffic congestion," he says, also describing plans to provide scenic tours and, possibly, backcountry-skiing outings if the proper permits are secured.

Blueprints submitted to City Hall show a landing zone just off S.R. 224, and Thorstenson says it is planned for a 120-foot-by-120-foot square of grass between the hotel and cottages on the grounds. The site also sits close to the golf course’s 11th green, the blueprints show.

Thorstenson says he has seen helicopters land on grass outside the hotel several times, but he is unsure what their purpose was. He says the hotel has never allowed someone not staying there to land on the grounds, and he pledges that policy will remain intact.

Thorstenson says the hotel will listen to neighbors and says management does not want to upset people who live nearby. He says his side will adhere to City Hall’s rules, and the helicopter is not required in the hotel’s long-range plans.

"We don’t want to do anything that would be adversarial," Thorstenson says, adding that the helicopter runs quietly.

The upcoming talks about the helicopters will likely resemble those that unfolded earlier in the fall in the Snyderville Basin. Another chopper firm wants to land at The Canyons, but the Summit County Commission delayed a decision since the operator did not intend to fly in the upcoming winter. Neighbors in Sun Peak were worried about the noise and were concerned the helicopters would disturb wildlife. Those concerns are frequent in debates about allowing additional helicopters to fly in mountain settings.

At City Hall, Brooks Robinson, who runs the day-to-day operations of the Planning Department, says his department will query the operator about how loud the helicopter would be and when it would operate, among other questions.

According to Robinson, City Hall must approve a permit for helicopters to land within the city limits. He says helicopters in Park City are usually limited to medical flights and ski-lift construction, when they are used to put towers in place. News helicopters are sometimes seen in the city as well.

"The noise is going to be very key," Robinson says. "If it’s all hours, any day, it might be problematic."

Robinson expects people who live in Thaynes Canyon will resist the idea, saying they will probably be "very concerned," but the city government has not reviewed detailed flight patterns.

Fisher, from the helicopter company, says the chopper model pegged for the Hotel Park City runs quietly, and City Hall has been told likewise.

"They say they have the quietest helicopter out there," Robinson says.


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