Residents, skydiving business at odds

Family living across street from drop zone cites noise, privacy problems
By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Falling from the sky, hanging under brightly colored canopies, Skydive Sacramento parachutists glide to an empty field on Airport Road, returning to the ground with a feeling of exhilaration. Across the street, however, some residents don’t have that same feeling. Skydive Sacramento started operating in Lincoln about five months ago and the business has been very successful despite the economic slowdown, said owner Patrick Garcia. But the flight path and landing zone for the parachutists presents a problem for Joan Johnson, who lives and operates a horse boarding and training business across the street from where the parachutists land. “There’s no way he can come in but over my property,” Johnson said, adding that the noise of the parachutes spooks her horses. “It’s a cloth-flapping noise,” Johnson said, adding that airplanes don’t pose a noise problem because they are farther away. The parachutists are 300 to 500 feet above the property when they’re in the air, Garcia said, adding he was “willing to meet” with the Johnsons to find an alternate route acceptable to both parties. “I’m not at all interested in meeting with him,” Johnson said Monday. “They shouldn’t be in front of my house.” Johnson estimated her house is about 55 feet from the field in which the parachutists end up. “I can’t land too far north, because the closer we get to that runway, the closer we get to the aircraft,” Garcia said. A landing zone further to the south, near the corner of Nicolaus and Airport Roads would be better, he added, but the airport did not give him permission to land there. “If they’re not willing to work with me,” Garcia said, “then my only option is to say, ‘I’m sorry, you live on Airport Road, your property butts against airport property and you have to accept legitimate aviation activities.’ ” Garcia said he has been working for 16 months on building his business. In addition, Garcia said he has permission from the Federal Aviation Administration, Northern California Air Traffic Control, the Sacramento Flight Standards District Office and a business license from the city of Lincoln. Lincoln’s parachute-jumping ordinance allows him to land at, on or near airport property, Garcia said. “We are working through issues with trying to resolve the location of the parachute landing area,” said Airport Manager Dave Daly on Friday. Daly added that the FAA looks at safety aspects and the city of Lincoln looks at proper use of city property. Currently, Garcia does not have a use permit to land on airport property so he is landing on private property with permission from the owners, according to Garcia. “We’re taking steps forward to get (him) properly permitted,” Daly said. The matter will ultimately come before City Council and the public will be invited to voice opinions at the required public hearing, Daly added. Garcia said he appreciates the Johnsons’ right to operate their business but that they should also appreciate his right to operate his. David Johnson, Joan Johnson’s son, said he’s not against skydiving but having parachutes land all day four to five days a weeks “is annoying.” Living a short distance down Airport Road from his mother, David Johnson said their privacy is invaded and he doesn’t like the idea of parachutes flying over his pool. Garcia, though, said parachutes typically fly between 20 and 25 miles per hour and there is no time to be “peeping around.” In addition to Skydive Sacramento, Garcia, who lives in Lincoln, owns rental properties in the city and his wife also owns a business in the city. “I live here, I play here and I work here,” Garcia said, reiterating that he wants to work with the Johnsons. “I want to be the best neighbor I can. I don’t want my neighbors upset with me.”