A move to place a measure on the June 5 ballot that would ban new personal-use heliports on rural Napa County properties has passed its first hurdle.

County resident George Caloyannidis said supporters last week turned in a petition with 6,072 signatures to the county Election Division. Supporters need about 3,800 to be from registered county voters to qualify their measure.

“I’m pretty confident we’re going to have close to 5,000 valid ones,” Caloyannidis said. “We were always asking people if they were registered in the county before they signed.”

The measure comes amid a controversy over whether flying enthusiast Christian Palmaz should be allowed to build a heliport at the family home a few miles east of the city of Napa. The Planning Commission denied the project and Palmaz has appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors.

The Board is to take up the matter on Dec. 19, but only to postpone it until July 10.

Caloyannidis explained why he supports the initiative.

“It preserves the peace and quiet of neighborhoods,” Caloyannidis said on Monday. “We think it’s just the right thing to do.”

A few people refused to sign the petition because they said the proposed heliport ban infringes on private property rights, Caloyannidis said. He disagreed, saying the noise of helicopters coming and going affects the rights of neighbors to enjoy their properties.

The county will check to see if enough signatures are valid and if the petition meets legal standards. With these requirements passed, the petition would go to the county Board of Supervisors for action by Feb. 6.

Supervisors would have three choices: they could adopt the measure as law, place the measure on the ballot or request county staff to analyze the fiscal and other potential impacts of the measure. If they chose the analysis option, they would have until March 16 to adopt the measure or place the measure on the ballot.

Caloyannidis doesn’t want the Board of Supervisors to simply adopt the measure. He wants it to appear on the June 5 ballot.

“If the voters adopt it, only the voters can change it,” he said.

County law presently allows personal-use airports and heliports with a county use permit, which means winning approval from the Planning Commission. The measure proposes to prohibit personal use airports and heliports.

In addition, county law allows helicopter take-offs and landings without a use permit to support agricultural activities such as aerial spraying and frost protection. The measure would still allow such takeoffs and landings, but with additional requirements for helicopters that don’t use a public airport.

The takeoffs and landings would have to be unavoidable. The helicopter operator would submit within 48 hour a report to the county explaining why the takeoffs and landings were unavoidable. The helicopters that land and take off could carry only people essential for agricultural aerial activities.

This story has been modified from the original version.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.