British Columbia

West Kelowna helicopter manager dismisses noise complaints

“This area has been zoned for light industrial heliports since 1967. So I would say this area has been zoned for much longer than that residence has been there,” the helicopter company general manager says.

Valhalla Helicopters general manager Blair Savege is firing back after residents complained

The general manager of a helicopter company said noise complaints "come from a heightened emotional position with little to no factual evidence." (CBC)

After West Kelowna residents complained about the noise from his helicopter company's work drying cherry trees, Valhalla Helicopters general manager Blair Savege is firing back.

"Their complaints come from a heightened emotional position with little to no factual evidence," Savege said. "They have no factual evidence of their allegations."

Those allegations include that helicopters are flying too close to residences and starting too early in the morning, sometimes beginning their work as early as 4:30 a.m.

The helicopters are used to dry cherries — still on trees — by flying close enough overhead so that their rotors can blow rainwater off the fruit.

Cherries that are wet can split apart, losing their value.

'That's pure bunk'

West Kelowna CAO Jim Zaffino acknowledged complaints from residents about helicopters, but said the city can't do much to address the problem as airspace is regulated federally.

That didn't stop resident Karl Gianakos from attending a Tuesday council meeting to call on the city to enforce noise bylaws.

"I've got a reading of 90 decibels on my back deck. I can't even talk to my wife. It's ridiculous," he said. "This gentleman has not been a good neighbour … As far as him saying he doesn't fly over our homes? That's pure bunk."

Savege dismissed those comments on Wednesday.

"The residents next door, have, unfortunately, bought property next to a light industrial area that is zoned for heliports," he said. "This area has been zoned for light industrial heliports since 1967. So I would say this area has been zoned for much longer than that residence has been there."

Savege suggested council should educate residents that his company is operating within its rights and following Transport Canada regulations.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West

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