Council: I Hear a Lotta Buzzin'

City Council considers Formula One flight plans

Where the helicopters go
Where the helicopters go (Photo by John Anderson)

So you thought Formula One was all about souped-up cars going around in circles? Turns out this week it's all about helicopters going around in circles. Commercial plans to use temporary helipads at spots around town (more in the 'burbs) to ferry high rollers over traffic to the Circuit of the Americas have hit a wall of neighborhood opposition. The Barton Hills Neighborhood Associ­a­tion is raising sand over a landing site planned for South MoPac (on Barton Oaks Plaza, near Bee Cave Road), as is the Plaza Con­do­minium Association, which informed the city it had not given its approval – the building owner reportedly jumped the gun. Another landing site is planned for the roof of the Embassy Suites at 300 S. Congress.

The copter problem appears as Items 51 and 52 on today's (Thursday) City Council agenda, with Council Members Laura Morri­son and Kathie Tovo responding to neighborhood complaints by proposing an ordinance that would impose limits on helicopter sites and flights. Judging from Tuesday's work session, it won't be an easy sell, at least not quickly – other members were skeptical that they knew enough yet to regulate the process and, even should such an ordinance pass, it could not take effect in time for this month's race.

Particularly alarming to Morrison was that there seemed to be no certain count of how many flights were being planned, within a reported range of 50 to 200 takeoffs and landings on each of the three race days. The draft ordinance proposes a limit of 18 round-trips at a given site.

Meanwhile, copter companies have apparently been eagerly booking flight packages without first getting city approval, the domain of Aviation Department Director Jim Smith. Smith, laconic and unflappable, told council members he was still awaiting documentation from the various parties before he could act on any permits – so we can add that to the growing list of first-year uncertainties surrounding the race, after the not terribly orderly "dry run" footrace, Formula Run, which took place in the fog last weekend. Whatever happens this time, it won't be the last such debate – in addition to the annual F1 contests, motorcycle races and other events are starting to fill the COTA schedule.

What else might fire up today's meeting? The ongoing sound and curfew war between Cheer Up Charlie's and its neighbors – still unresolved by mediation – returns with public hearings in Items 87 and 88 (that the matter requires two separate hearings is not a harbinger of a potentially happy resolution).

Item 3 would codify the several pages of rules to govern single-use carryout bags after the bag ban ordinance takes effect next March 1 – it's on the consent agenda, but I'm betting somebody will pull it for discussion of the dirty details. Items 27 and 28 would resolve to annex the land at COTA and nearby (welcome to Austin, Elroy!); and Item 58 would direct city staff to enter into discussions over how best to collaborate with beleaguered Emergency Service District 11 (and other jurisdictions) over public safety at the track and surrounding area. Item 16 would approve the city's lobbying agenda for next year's 83rd Legislature – heavy on supporting municipal authority and defending against Austin/city bashing.

The zoning agenda includes several items (92-97) addressing the East Riverside Cor­ri­dor Master Plan and the related "Regu­lat­ing Plan" – and all things East Riverside are generally accompanied by neighborhood point and counterpoint.

Finally (on the agenda, but not likely in the evening), the 5:30 music is the country blues duo Mayeux & Broussard, and among the proclamations are both National Diabetes Month and Pancreatic Cancer Month. Step up and support your disease.

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More City Council
Who Will Be the New Council Voice for District 9?
Who Will Be the New Council Voice for District 9?
Eight candidates vie for Austin's most powerful YIMBYs and NIMBYs

Austin Sanders, Oct. 28, 2022

Can Council Get Its Sh*t Done by 10pm?
Can Council Get Its Sh*t Done by 10pm?
Austin City Council addresses a 93-item agenda Sept. 15 and aims to end by 10pm rather than voting to extend the meeting

Austin Sanders, Sept. 16, 2022

More Formula One
Playback: Fan Fest Upgrades
Playback: Fan Fest Upgrades
Fan Fest finally books locally; Housecore Horror co-founder Corey Mitchell dies

Kevin Curtin, Oct. 31, 2014

Statewide Candidate Filings Trickle In
Statewide Candidate Filings Trickle In
A slight attendance dip and only a couple of traffic hiccups in event's second year

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 22, 2013

More by Michael King
Point Austin: Everything Old Is New Again
Point Austin: Everything Old Is New Again
The long, honorable history of students “disturbing the war”

May 4, 2024

Point Austin: Trials of Our Would-Be Rulers Highlight the Limits of American Justice
Point Austin: Trials of Our Would-Be Rulers Highlight the Limits of American Justice
In Trump and Paxton trials, the rules don’t apply

April 19, 2024


City Council, f1, Formula One, helicopters, East Riverside, Cheer Up Charlie's

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle