Part-time Rosendale resident Daniel Preston exchanged heated words with some of his neighbors at a public hearing held by the Rosendale Town Board at its October 3 workshop meeting. The hearing was set to elicit community input on a proposed local law amending Chapter 75 of the Town Code to outlaw the launch or landing of “any airplane or helicopter” within the town, except for emergencies or by special permit. The new legal language would stipulate that “no property owner, occupant or tenant shall allow any aircraft to take off from or land on lands under his or her control, or allow for the embarkment or disembarkment of persons, or the delivery of products on or over lands under his or her control.”
Several residents of Burrs Crossing, a road that adjoins Preston’s property at 617 Route 213, petitioned the town to enact legislation that would prohibit his use of his land, or the bed of the Rondout Creek, as launch or landing sites for helicopters that he owns and operates. According to the complainants, Preston’s aircraft activity has been noisy and disruptive to the peaceful enjoyment of their own nearby homesites for several years. “I was mowing my lawn with music on my earphones,” recounted Denise Dehardt of one such incident. “When that helicopter flew over, I literally thought I was being shot at. When he’s flying that helicopter, it’s low.”
Preston responded angrily to Dehardt’s allegation, demanding that she produce the identification number on the helicopter that she had observed on that occasion. He admitted to the board that “I own helicopters and make them for my living,” but protested that he had “an eight-year track record of coming and going, and nobody said anything until recently.” He then accused one of the neighbors of deciding to try to outlaw helicopters out of frustration over having lost a battle to outlaw the keeping of chickens in Rosendale.
Preston went on to “challenge the police to bring a decibel meter” to measure the noise level of his aircraft. “I will take off and land,” he said. “I guarantee that it will not violate any noise ordinance.” He argued that, according to Federal Aviation Administration policy, the proposed law itself would be unenforceable: “Small helicopter traffic — you cannot regulate it or have it upheld… It would be completely unlawful to even put the law on the books.”
Another petitioner to enact the law, Ron Schade, claimed that he and his wife Barbara had been “served with legal papers when we walked in” — papers alleging that they and another resident whose name they did not recognize had “made defamatory statements about Mr. Preston” and demanding that they immediately delete Facebook posts to that effect. “I’m not on Facebook,” Schade pointed out. “This is an attempt to intimidate us.”
The Town Board closed the verbal portion of the public hearing, but agreed to continue accepting written comments on the helicopter law from the public for an additional two weeks. Town supervisor Jeanne Walsh noted that no further action could be taken on passage of the law until they had received comments back from both the Rosendale and Ulster County Planning Boards.