Paradise Helicopters Abandons Plan to Land in Royal Gardens
A Big Island helicopter tour company has decided to withdraw its application for permission to ferry tourists to the site of a lava-ravaged subdivision on the slopes of Kilauea volcano.
In a letter submitted Jan. 31 to the county Planning Department, Paradise Helicopters’ Director of Business Development Rob Payesko said the firm would no longer pursue the Special Permit allowing it to land at what was once the home of Jack Thompson, the last resident of the Royal Gardens subdivision.
Paradise Helicopters had been making the stops previously but applied for the permission early last year after being informed by the county that a permit from the Windward Planning Commission was required because the activity required flying over conservation areas.
Opposition to the plan was expressed by Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park and Kalapana resident John Carse.
Hawai’i Volcanoes had requested a contested case hearing on the application because of concerns of noise and other impacts resulting from the landings which would occur just outside the park’s boundaries.
Although Thompson’s home was overrun by lava on March 2, 2012, the air tour company indicated that it still intended to pursue the landings.
According to a environmental assessment issued in July, the company said it still planned to build a landing platform to allow up to 24 passengers a day to visit Thompson’s property for “an up-close look at the stark contrast of the lava inundation in an area of tropical beauty with scenic vistas of the ocean.”
According to Payesko, the company has now decided that it would be too costly to go through a contested case hearing.
“We have concluded that we are unable to pursue the application because the process will require a greater financial investment than we are able to commit to at this time,” Payesko’s letter said.
He also noted that even if the company should prevail at the hearing, the National Park Service would have an additional opportunity to negate the permit with the completion of a proposed Air Tour Management Plan which tentatively contains a half-mile buffer zone around park boundaries in which aircraft would be restricted.