Pitkin County commissioners decided to create new guidelines for whether helicopters should be allowed to film in the county during a meeting on Wednesday.
At the meeting, county officials planned to add a new item to the special event and commercial land-use code that would prohibit helicopters from filming in the area unless approved by the commissioners. There is currently no code addressing issue.
That can’t be done until a list of criteria is developed so that commissioners can point to something if they decide to deny an application, said County Attorney John Ely. There needs to be some standard of reference to determine why someone would or would not be allowed to use a helicopter to film, he said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards proposed that some qualifying items could be if the helicopters are broadcasting live, like the USA Pro Challenge cycling race did last year, or being used to reduce the impacts of events on public lands and wildlife. Race organizers used helicopters during the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen, to drop off gear at checkpoints along the race, she noted.
Commissioner Michael Owsley raised the question of whether the county should try to restrict the use of remotely controlled helicopters from filming due to privacy reasons. Real estate companies often use those vehicles for marketing purposes to film a property for perspective buyers, he said.
“I’d just hate for neighborhoods to have a fly over of drones essentially because somebody wants to sell their house,” Owsley said.
The privacy issue is a worthy reason to restrict use of unmanned helicopters, but some can be useful for spotting fires in the backcountry, Richards added.
Commissioners concluded that the land use code will not address helicopter use until a list of criteria is established.