A request by the chief executive of a Sterling-based moving company to establish Loudoun County’s first residential helipad has triggered a wave of opposition from some of the executive’s neighbors.
The application, submitted by Charles Kuhn, president and chief executive of JK Moving Services, seeks a special exemption that would allow him to operate the helipad on Egypt Farm, a 540-acre property in Purcellville on which Kuhn also plans to build a house for his family. The application was accepted last month for review by county officials.
By using his helicopter to go to and from the farm, Kuhn said, he could conduct business travel more efficiently and spend more time with his family. But some neighbors have said that the resulting noise would disrupt the peace and quiet of the rural community and disturb their horses and cattle.
After the Washington Business Journal ran an article last month about the helipad application, some concerned neighbors quickly organized and became a social media force — launching a Facebook page called “Keep Western Loudoun Peaceful,” creating a corresponding Twitter account and starting a MoveOn.org petition to urge the Loudoun Board of Supervisors to reject the application. The petition, which says the heliport would “disrupt the lifestyle of the Loudoun Valley,” was signed by more than 100 residents as of Friday.
Negative comments also quickly accumulated on a county Web page that displays information about the application.
“We strongly oppose a helipad on Egypt farm,” Purcellville resident Louis Boink wrote. “We have cattle and horses, all of which will be disturbed by low flying helicopters.”
“NO HELIPAD!” wrote Roy Beach, who said he was also a neighbor of Egypt Farm. “Upon acquiring Egypt Farm, Mr. Kuhn repeatedly flew over my house, spooking my horses and creating a noisy disturbance. . . . And I fear it would negatively impact my property value.”
Others wondered why Kuhn couldn’t park his helicopter at Leesburg Airport, 15 miles away. Kuhn said that airport and private airports like it across the county prove that the helipad would create minimal disturbances by comparison.
The private airports accommodate all types of aircraft and have hundreds of takeoffs and landings a day, whereas Egypt Farm would have only one
single-engine helicopter coming and going, Kuhn told The Washington Post.
The application seeks only the necessary permission to land, a point he said some people might not realize.
“The permission we’re asking for is not to overfly farms and property in Loudoun County. That permission is already granted to every aviator in existence,” he said. “I’m already allowed to hover over the property one inch off the ground. What we’re asking for is to close that one inch and physically land on the property.”
Kuhn said that after he researched the history of special-exemption requests in Loudoun, which often stir controversy, he was not surprised by the opposition.
“We saw one where people were going to put up a horse barn, and they had over 120 people opposed to the construction of a horse barn on private property,” he said. “So when we were coming in for a special exemption with a heliport, we certainly expected some opposition . . . but to the extent that it’s going in some of the comments, it’s just disappointing.”
Kuhn said he has also received a lot of support in western Loudoun. Many neighbors were pleased when Kuhn bought the land and announced plans to put much of it under conservation easement. Other neighboring farms have voiced support for the heliport application, he added, and positive comments have also been submitted to the county Web site.
“The good news is we have a great number of supporters,” Kuhn said. He plans to win more.
The Washington Business Journal article “got to the community before we had a chance to meet with them to share our plans and discuss our intentions,” Kuhn said. He still plans to have that conversation with residents who are concerned about the helipad.
“It’s our hope to get them to understand our plan and become more comfortable,” he said.
The application is pending, and the county planning commission will have a public hearing to allow residents to address the issue. The hearing is expected to be in November but has not been scheduled, according to county records.