The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Aviator wins airport rights


Lou Marzeles

AIRING OUT THE ISSUES: Doug Herlihy refers to his notes Monday night at the Board of Adjustment meeting.

A meeting of the Klickitat County Board of Adjustment Monday night resulted in the granting of amendments in the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for private airport operator Doug Herlihy. The meeting overflowed with attendees, the vast majority there to support Herlihy.

Herlihy, who owns Aerostone Airport, a private air strip that is on aviation navigation maps, was responding to a secret complaint against him claiming his plane was abusively noisy; that he routinely did invasive dives over the properties of others; that he was in violation of FAA regulations by flying too close to the ground; and that he violated county regulations by housing helicopters in his hangars.

In a detailed presentation to the board, Herlihy gave background on his career as a pilot and aviator and as an airplane crash investigator who is regularly flown around the world to assist in crash investigation and court cases. He recounted his work flying for the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office and county fire departments assisting in search and rescue operations, law enforcement efforts, and fire spotting (all of which he provides at no cost to the county).

He then addressed the specifics of the complaint made against him. "Noise?" he asked. "Let's compare the scale of noise," and he referred to documentation showing decibel levels of various sounds. "At the bottom is flowers growing," he continued. "Then you've got dishwashers at about 50 decibels. Vacuum cleaners at 10 feet away are about 70 decibels." Further up the scale were garbage disposals, gas lawn mowers, and, at the top of the scale, a jet fly-over at 110 decibels. Herlihy said his light aircraft was lower in decibel level than a food blender.

A photo had been taken by the complainant of Herlihy's plane at about 25 feet off the ground, offered as proof that he was flying too low. "What he didn't mention," Herlihy said, "was that the plane was five seconds from touch-down," emphasizing that in take-off and landing obviously a plane must be close to the ground.

The helicopters in question were those of Wilson Construction, used during the placing of wires in BPA transmission lines on the new Big Eddie-Knight power line. Wilson was referred to Herlihy by Tony Riley, and Herlihy agreed to allow Wilson to house helicopters on his airport. He acknowledged that helicopters are generally louder than planes but added these were two-man "bubble" copters that made much less noise. Moreover, they were long since off his property.

Lou Marzeles

MAKING HIS CASE: Aviator Doug Herlihy speaks before the Klickitat County Board of Adjustment Monday.

As to issue of deliberately trying to annoy his neighbors, Herlihy called the claim baseless. "Air flight is expensive," he said. "I'm not going to waste that on annoying neighbors." He then read a portion of a complaint from a neighbor stating to the effect that Herlihy was an annoyance in and of himself. "This iis just personal," Herlihy said. "And this kind of personal complaint doesn't belong before the Board of Adjustment."

Following his presentation, about a dozen people spoke in support of Herlihy and his aircraft, including Sheriff Bob Songer, Ty Ross, Zane Kerns, George Miner, Tony Riley, Eric Anderson, and Mark Sigfrinius.

The sole speakers against allowing Herlihy's amendments were Dan and Greta Sines, who have property north of Herlihy's. "We moved out here for the peace and quiet," Dan Sines said. "I'm all for what Doug does for the county, I really am. I'm just concerned about him adding more aircraft, which these amendments would allow, and it getting noisier."

The board then entered into discussion and quickly and unanimously voted to allow Herlihy's CUP amendments. There follows a 21-day appeal period.


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