CHESAPEAKE CITY — Visitors to Schaefer’s Restaurant and Canal Bar may no longer get to see helicopter arrivals if a new town proposal is approved.
“It’s just a disaster waiting to happen,” said Bill Miners, a Chesapeake City town councilman, late last month. “We think it is our responsibility to ensure public safety.”
Miners introduced a bill at the council’s Monday, Aug. 25 to prohibit the landing of aircraft in town except under certain circumstances. While helicopter landings at the popular canal-side restaurant were the focal point of the legislation, the bill also calls for the prohibiting of flying unmanned aircraft, such as increasingly popular drones, below 400 feet within town limits.
Those exempt under the proposed ordinance include the U.S. Coast Guard or other federal government aircraft, Maryland State Police Medevac helicopters or licensed aircraft used solely for the purpose of agricultural crop maintenance.
Violation of the ordinance would be a municipal infraction punishable by a formal notification filed with the Federal Aviation Administration and a fine. A first offense would be $1,000, while second offenses increase to $2,000 and then $10,000 for all subsequent offenses.
Miners said the bill is a precautionary measure designed to protect the public, as helicopters are currently landing in close proximity to fuel docks at the restaurant.
“If that helicopter hits the fuel dock or the bridge, who knows,” he said.
Matt Stuart, of Liberty Aviation in West Chester, Pa., brings clients to Schaefer’s by helicopter. He was a bit baffled by the proposed ordinance.
“I bring clients for dinner at Schaefer’s about once a week or once every other week in the season, which is April to September, and maybe five times during the off season,” he said. “I also go to the Kitty Knight House a little further south and land there too. I had not heard of such an ordinance before this.”
Stuart said he has “one of the quietist helicopters out there.” He said it would be difficult to overshoot a helicopter landing and hit a fuel dock.
“I land on another dock that is separate from the one with the fuel,” Stuart said. “I follow the standard approach when landing and taking off at Schaefer’s, and that is to head toward Cecil County Airport. I follow the waterway and try not to fly over houses. My clients enjoy coming to Chesapeake City, it brings in some tourism.”
John Giordano, owner of Schaefer’s Restaurant, said he was not sure of the intent of the proposal.
“Schaefer’s has had a heliport for as long as I can remember. They used to bring Santa in and land there,” Giordano said. “It won’t effect our business, but I am not sure where this is coming from.”