Helicopter tour businesses will find few places to land in Georgetown County if county leaders agree with planners about where those businesses will be allowed.

The County Planning Commission voted at its Oct. 20 meeting to recommend approval an amendment to the county zoning ordinance that addresses aeronautical uses, especially commercial helicopter tour businesses. County Council will make the final decision in three readings at regular meetings starting Nov. 15.

The proposed ordinance would allow commercial helicopter operations in forest and agriculture, limited industrial and heavy industrial zoning districts and it states that helicopter tour businesses will be located no closer than 1,000 feet from any dwelling, church, hospital or park. It further states that commercial helicopter businesses in forest and agriculture districts must be associated with uses such as timbering and crop dusting.

This change comes after news that Horry County, to the north, has had concerns with safety issues and noise from helicopter tour businesses, County Planning Director Boyd Johnson said in his report. Currently, the county zoning ordinance defines "airports" but does not address the use of helicopters.

"Negative issues have developed in neighboring counties from commercial helicopter operations, particularly tours," Johnson said. "Low-flying helicopters create excessive noise that can affect residences, businesses and schools. ... Property values can be harmed due to continuous helicopter operations."

Holly Richardson, chief planner, said Georgetown County does not have any commercial helicopter tour businesses, or any requests for such a business, but planners are being proactive before there is an issue.

"There is a concern that helicopter tour businesses will move to Georgetown County since Horry County has tightened its ordinance for those types of businesses," Richardson said. "We want to get out ahead of it."

In other business:

  • The commission voted to recommend approval of a request from Anthony and Rhonda Smith to rezone one 20,000-square-foot parcel west of U.S. Highway 17 Business at its intersection with Pendergrass Avenue in Murrells Inlet from general commercial zoning district to general residential. The change is to allow for construction of a single-family dwelling.
  • The commission voted to recommend approval of a request from Jamie McLain as agent for Kevin O'Connell to rezone three parcels totaling about .83 acres west of U.S. Highway 17 Business at its intersection with Wilcox Avenue in Murrells Inlet from general commercial zoning district to resort residential. A restaurant was previously on the property. Allowed uses for resort residential are single-family dwellings, two-family dwellings and boarding homes.