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Jeffco Resident Fights For Helicopter Flights From His Home

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — A neighborhood dispute over a resident's comings and goings had to be decided in court. The answer to whether helicopters can land on private property is not clearly defined in Jefferson County Zoning Regulations.

CBS4's Tori Mason interviews Jonathan Sawyer who believes he should be allowed to fly and land his helicopter at his home in unincorporated Jefferson County. (credit: CBS)

Jonathan Sawyer lives on several acres of unincorporated land in Jefferson County. He occasionally charters helicopters for trips to the airport. According to Sawyer, the trip is about double the cost of a rideshare service, significantly faster and safer than driving.

While some neighbors don't mind the copter, others prefer the only bird in their backyard be an animal. One neighbor told CBS4 a residential area is simply not the place for aircraft and expressed concern over its impact on wildlife.

(credit: CBS)

"The neighbors are 600 feet away, and I don't even overfly them. It's less noise than if I had a Harley driving up and down the road," said Sawyer. "Once a month I'm landing a helicopter and they didn't like it."

If Jefferson County residents have concerns about whether activity on a neighbor's property follows zoning rules, they can file a complaint. Sawyer couldn't find anything that prohibited him from landing or taking off in a helicopter from his private property.

(credit: CBS)

Sawyer was disappointed to learn that no mention in this case also means not permitted.

"Because it's not mentioned, the county says it's forbidden and they get to choose whether or not to enforce it," explained Sawyer.

According to the Jefferson County Zoning Resolution, if a use is not listed within the permitted uses of a zone district, then the use is not allowed.

"Helicopters are not mentioned, fireplaces are not mentioned, drones are not mentioned," explained Sawyer, "If it's not specifically prohibited it should be allowed. That's America!"

(credit: CBS)

The court prohibited Sawyer, and subsequently other Jefferson County residents, from landing aircraft in unauthorized, un-permitted areas.

"People occasionally land helicopters on their property. Hotels, restaurants. People do this for special events. They do this to travel if you're in a remote location," explained Sawyer.

Since inspectors don't drive around looking for violations, Jefferson County's violation program is complaint based.

CBS4 reached out to Jefferson County for comment, but since litigation is still pending, the county declined comment at this time.

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