Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mill Valley, Marin County, California: After 70 years, seaplanes deserve better treatment



The yellow wings of seaplanes have gracefully flown from Richardson Bay for 70 years (“Seaplanes under scrutiny,” Aug. 19). Yet the entitled residents around Richardson Bay prove the old adage: “I just moved here. What’s that noise? You mean there’s an airport here?”

One complaining resident can’t hear her cellphone while on her deck when the plane taxis away for all of about 11 seconds, a handful of times an entire day.

Poor victim.

The other resident somehow knows the migratory birds are “terrorized” by the planes’ cruel single-engine sound.

Really? How does she know that? Did she poll the birds for consensus?

Why try to put a hard-working family business that brings pleasure and revenue to all of us in Marin out of business?

I have a simple solution for our elitist residents: move. People matter more than cellphones and birds.

(I polled the birds, by the way. Results? They love the big “noisy” yellow birds that cause them no harm whatsoever, as they have for 70 years.)

— Rex Allen, San Rafael

Original article ➤ http://www.marinij.com/opinion


Seaplane Adventures’ owner Aaron Singer says he and his family were shocked when they received a letter from the county that said their use permit was being reconsidered. 



Mill Valley: Seaplane Adventures comes under scrutiny

Elisa Florez says working from home in her Strawberry condo isn’t easy with seaplanes buzzing overhead, and conference calls — forget about it.

“I’m looking at snowy white egrets, on a call,” says Florez, who lives on Seminary Drive. “The seaplane comes up, and boom — it’s so loud, you cannot talk on the phone when out on the deck.”

Indoors it’s noisy, too, says Florez, who’s among a group of Strawberry residents who have grown increasingly irritated by the planes operated by Seaplane Adventures, a Mill Valley business that for more than 70 years has offered air tours over the Bay Area.

Complaints about noise and possible impacts on wildlife have prompted Marin County officials to recommend modifying the company’s use permit to limit the number of daily flights, though one option would be to prohibit seaplanes from Richardson Bay altogether. The county Planning Commission is set to meet at 1 p.m. Aug. 28 at the Marin Civic Center to consider a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.




The company, which operates its planes on Richardson Bay just west of the Strawberry peninsula, launches an average of eight flights a day during peak summer months and up to five flights daily in the winter, said Aaron Singer, who took over as owner of Seaplane Adventures in 2012. A county staff report noted that flights have increased in recent years.

Singer said he and his family were shocked a few weeks back when they received a letter from the county that said their use permit was being reconsidered.

“We have done nothing wrong, we follow the rules,” he said. “We hold safety absolutely paramount for our passengers and guests and pilots and employees. We are at a complete loss at why we’re being targeted.”

The business landed on the county’s radar after complaints in 2015 regarding noise, safety and environmental impacts from the business’s operations.




Sandy Donegan, a longtime Strawberry resident who lives off Belloc Lagoon, said she is most concerned about wildlife in the area, including egrets and herons.

She noted that a portion of Richardson Bay is off limits to boat and other water activity during winter to protect migratory birds, and there should be limits on seaplanes as well.

“The poor birds, they’re terrorized,” Donegan said. “Their wings are flapping and they’re flying out of there.”

Donegan said she wants residents to collectively determine what should happen to the business’s use permit.




Florez said many people are fond of the longtime business, but Strawberry residents are having difficulty dealing with its operations.

“The noise level is so obtrusive that we have to stop our lives,” she said. “All these people are so nostalgic ... about packing a picnic watching the seaplane. The demographics have changed in our neighborhood and (they’ve) increased the number of flights.”

She said she does not want to shut down the business but wants seaplanes to operate farther from houses.

Steve Sekhon, who lives in a nearby houseboat, said the seaplanes are a regular sight from his residence and from the bay when he is kayaking. He said he has never seen unsafe maneuvers.

When it comes to the noise emanating from the planes, Sekhon said he finds it charming.

“It’s been there far longer than there have been houses in Strawberry,” he said. “This is like the airport outside of a town and then the suburbs grow out to the airport and they complain about the noise. Seaplane was there first.”

Joe Grenn, a Strawberry Point resident, said he finds it fun to watch the seaplane coming and going from his home. But he said he can understand neighbors’ concerns.

“Because of the position of my house, it doesn’t bother me,” he said. “But I see the point of it being a problem for people who are further down on the point where the plane does come close to their house. I have no objection to the plane because it doesn’t affect me.”

Singer said he is baffled by recent complaints about his business, noting it was found to be in compliance with conditions of its use permit in a 2016 county-initiated noise study that was based on unannounced inspections from around Richardson Bay. That study was prompted by neighbors’ complaints.

County Planning Manager Jeremy Tejirian said greater environmental protections for the area were approved in 1983, two years after the business’s use permit was last approved; because of that, county officials determined they should review the permit again with those protections in mind.

The Planning Commission could recommend one of four options: allow the business to resume operations as usual; modify the permit; revoke the permit; or revoke the permit and prohibit seaplanes from operating on Richardson Bay.

County staff suggests the Planning Commission recommend seaplane operations be limited to six daily flights, with a flight defined as one take-off and landing operation. Aircraft using the base should not exceed a capacity of eight passengers and airplane maneuvers should not take place in the inlet to the northeast of the seaplane base, between De Silva Island and Seminary Drive, according to staff recommendations.

No date has been set for a Board of Supervisors’ review of the matter.

Story, comments and photo gallery ➤ http://www.marinij.com

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