Downtown Bellevue helipad proposal still in the works

Kemper Development has two new hurdles to clear in its bid to land helicopters in downtown Bellevue. Both obstacles come in the form of citizen-lead efforts.

Local developer John Su has appealed a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) determination of non-significance for the proposal, while around 33 residents have signed a petition to delay the permitting process until the city can fully analyze the potential impacts.

“We’re just asking the city to get in front of this issue,” said Bellevue resident Lynn Terpstra, who helped draft the petition.

A hearing for the SEPA appeal will take place at 7 p.m. on July 9 at Bellevue City Hall, with the public welcome to attend.

Kemper has requested a conditional-use permit to operate a private helistop on the Bank of America building. The flight path for all helicopters using that station would be limited to local freeways and Northeast Eighth Street.

Terpstra said that the city should not move forward with the permitting process until it creates a comprehensive policy on helicopters.

Many residents have expressed concern about potential noise and safety problems involved with the helipad proposal, but a SEPA environmental review indicates that there would be no significant impacts.

A SEPA environmental review is required before making a determination on a conditional-use permit.

Su is developing a 22-story residential complex called Ashwood Commons, located near Northeast 10th Street and 112th Avenue Northeast. He also has plans for two downtown projects that are in the permitting stages.

“We feel if the city wants residential development in downtown Bellevue, it should provide a good quality of living for the residents,” Su said.

Kemper's heliport-planning consultant, David Ketchum, contends that the proposed helipad would have nominal impacts.

“The rise above the ambient noise level is almost indistinguishable, and the frequency and duration are very low,” he said. “When you look at that objectively, we feel the impacts are minimal.”

Two sound studies have already been done to test the effects of helicopter landings and takeoffs at the proposed site.

Bellevue’s development-services department has recommended approval of the conditional-use permit application with stipulations that include:

• Operating only Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5p.m.

• Allowing a maximum of five landings and takeoffs per week, and never on Sundays or legal holidays.

• Allowing light turbine helicopters only.

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