Uber plans Sundance helicopters, but will zoning rules change the script?
Uber, the transportation company, said it intends to offer helicopter service in Park City during the opening days of the Sundance Film Festival.
Park City and Summit County laws, though, could change the script.
A spokesperson for Uber said the service, called UberCHOPPER, was expected to run from Thursday, the opening day of Sundance, until Sunday. The Thursday-to-Sunday period is typically the busiest stretch of Sundance. The helicopters would operate from 12:30 p.m. until; 8:30 p.m.
Taylor Patterson, the spokesperson, said the service would employ a few helicopters. She said there is a landing site close to the downtown area of Park City, but the precise location was not immediately available. She said the landing site is at a private residence.
Patterson said the proximity of Park City to Salt Lake City International Airport allows the service to work well. The trip to Park City would take 15 minutes by helicopter, she said. A sport utility vehicle would then carry people to their destination in Park City.
The service will cost $200 per person, one way, during the day and $300 per person at night for a one-way trip. The helicopter would carry five passengers and the pilot.
"Anybody who’s looking for a unique experience, a unique Uber experience," Patterson said while describing potential clients, indicating movie-studio executives could be interested.
But it is unclear whether Uber holds the proper permits for a helicopter operation like the one described.
Bruce Erickson, the planning director in Park City, said the company would need to secure a permit from the Park City Planning Commission to locate a helipad inside the city limits. An application has not been filed. A helipad cannot operate without a permit, he said. It could take months sometimes between the submittal of an application and a Planning Commission decision.
Erickson is not aware of a helipad inside the Park City limits other than the one at Park City Medical Center. That one is used for medical transports.
Erickson said the Planning Department has received approximately six calls over the past month from helicopter companies interested in a service, but there have been no direct talks with Uber about UberCHOPPER.
The planning and zoning administrator in Summit County, Peter Barnes, said the County Courthouse has no zoning district that allows a helipad. Summit County has not received an application for the Uber service, he said. The Wasatch County Planning Department and the municipal government in Heber City also said they had not received an application.
The talk of a helicopter service by Uber follows shortly after Park City leaders approved an agreement with Sundance organizers setting aside the flagpole parking lot on lower Swede Alley for Uber. The firm is an official Sundance sponsor. A City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the decision regarding the flagpole lot indicated Uber had between 150 and 200 drivers in Old Town during Sundance in 2015 and the number could increase this year.
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