Jacksonville EAAers Score Apparent Victory Over Anti-Aircraft Ordinance
February 28 , 2007 — EAA members in Jacksonville, Florida, discovered Tuesday night that you indeed can fight City Hall. In a show of unity, about 20 EAAers from Jacksonville's Chapter 193 and other area chapters persuaded the city council to either repeal or re-write its controversial ordinance that prohibits parking or storing aircraft in residentially zoned areas as well as repairing, testing, operating, modifying, or altering flying craft anywhere on a residential lot.
"It could not have gone any better," said Milford Shirley, Chapter 193 president, who organized EAA members to attend the Tuesday night meeting. "Our strategy was to show the inequity of restricting aircraft homebuilding as opposed to other hobby-type pursuits that aren't as regulated, and it worked."
Shirley also distributed copies of Sport Aviation and various event flyers to the council members for background on recreational flying and the homebuilt movement.
Chapter 193 members Jeff Nordseik, Ben Burbridge, and Sam Fischer made photo presentations illustrating how unfair the ordinance is. For example, because of the narrowly written ordinance, a resident can legally build a fiberglass canoe at home, but not a composite fuselage. Working on furniture in your garage is allowed, but not a wing rib. Want to weld an iron bedstead? Go ahead, but welding aircraft tubing is off limits.
Council member Lake Ray, who authored the ordinance, admitted that it was a mistake and too over-reaching. "He (Ray) said there was a good chance the council would repeal the law,' Shirley said. "But even if they don't, they'll at least re-write the ordinance with significant input from EAA members." Shirley said that any restrictions for aircraft should be the same as those for similar hobby pursuits, such as automobile restoration.
He's called a meeting of chapter members for this Saturday to discuss aircraft-revision recommendations to the ordinance.
In a separate meeting with council member Ray, chapter members discovered that many years ago he was a student pilot and even soloed, but stopped flying to pursue other life and family goals. Chapter members immediately invited Ray and the other council members to visit future flight events where they hope to reintroduce him to recreational aviation, including a flight in a new special light-sport aircraft based at the airport.
Shirley also mentioned he was extremely happy with the advocacy relationship with EAA, where the chapter took the lead with EAA providing backup support as necessary. "It was a win-win for everyone," Shirley said.
The ordinance was passed in June in response to a residential complaint against EAA member Brian Kraut, who's been charged several times since for code violations. Kraut made an unsuccessful attempt in December to have the ordinance declared unconstitutional, and the charges are still officially pending.