It looks like the contentious issue of noise generated by airplanes flown by a Cloverdale skydiving operation is not going to be resolved any time soon.
Cloverdale city officials are hoping to broker some type of compromise that would keep NorCal Skydiving aloft without ongoing complaints from residents who describe a “high, horrible buzz” and “tortuous” din from the company’s airplanes.
After a hearing lasting more than three hours Tuesday morning, members of a City Council airport subcommittee said they want to bring in an expert — likely an attorney versed in aviation issues — to explain the city’s options for regulating the business.
Mayor Bob Cox said NorCal is a viable business that has been “attempting to modify the situation,” but he also acknowledged “maybe more can be done.”
“Hopefully we can bring this to a resolution for all concerned,” he said.
NorCal co-owner Jimmy Halliday said his company has taken a number of measures to try and cut down the noise, changing airplanes and flight routes.
“There’s not much more we can continue to do and safely operate the skydiving facility,” he told the subcommittee Tuesday.
“Our ability to do something is limited,” said City Manager Paul Cayler, who added “it needs to be explored in more detail.”
Police Chief Mark Tuma, who also serves as Cloverdale Airport manager, said the Federal Aviation Administration basically targets large jets for noise requirements and it would be practically impossible for the city to pay for an expensive study to justify regulating noise at the small general aviation airport.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email Tuesday that his agency “does not regulate noise. However, speaking generally and not in relation to this situation, the FAA sometimes works with airports, pilots and community groups to try to address noise issues.”
Cloverdale officials noted that disputes over aircraft noise have erupted in the recent past at nearby airports, including Healdsburg and Willits.
Officials noted the skydiving company increases tourist revenue and the Cloverdale Airport is also an important base for firefighting and medical flights.
Some pilots who spoke Tuesday feared the complaints about the skydiving operation could lead to restrictions on other airport operations.
“I’m very concerned this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Raymond Shipway, who owns a hangar at the airport. He said once NorCal is dealt with, opponents will “come after other folks who come in and out” of the airport.
Joaquin Espinosa, who lives three miles from the airport, said the noise from the airplanes doesn’t bother him.
“It’s part of living. I hope we can keep them in Cloverdale,” he said of the skydiving company.
Cloverdale residents disturbed by the engine noise did get a temporary reprieve last weekend when the skydiving company suspended operations because of problems with its state corporate license.
The owners acknowledged they had failed to pay a $58 tax bill, but said it was because one of them changed address and did not receive the tax notice.
“We’ve fixed it,” said Halliday, adding that it typically takes seven to 14 business days for the license to be reinstated and the company to be back flying.
Tuesday’s hearing, attended by about 50 people, was rancorous at times, with some speakers claiming the city has been dragging its feet on the noise issue that surfaced some time ago.