Helipad idea flies as firm seeks fast access to Everett

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT – If traffic’s a nasty snarl, take the helicopter.

Officials at Food Services of America in southwest Everett will be able to do just that if city leaders approve a proposal to build a concrete landing pad for the company’s helicopter.

The planning commission will take public comments at a meeting today and could make a recommendation tonight.

The company is seeking a special property-use permit for the helipad it hopes to build within the company’s parking area. The helicopter would be used to transport company officers, employees, customers and vendors between company sites in the Puget Sound region.

The city requires a special-use permit for helipads so city leaders can give those proposals a more extensive review, said Bob Landles of the city’s planning department.

"We don’t foresee significant impacts," Landles said, adding that the area is surrounded by office, industrial and heavy manufacturing uses.

Landles said the city hasn’t received complaints regarding the use of existing helipads in southwest Everett operated separately by the Snohomish County Public Utility District and The Boeing Co.

Neighbor Michele Smith said she hasn’t had any concerns over helicopter traffic although she can hear and see the whirlybirds.

"They have a couple of times looked like they’ve been headed straight for our house," Smith said, adding that her home is on a hill. "It can easily look like it’s heading for my dining room window."

Smith said she has some concerns with the new proposal over any late-night operations and the frequency of flights.

"Helicopters being permitted to fly until 10 p.m., including weekends, will certainly disrupt the quiet of the neighborhood," she said. "When you hear there’s more going in, it makes you wonder. One of my questions is if we have two helipads in the area, why do we need another one?"

The company recently built the Everett facility to complement its operations in Kent. One management staff leads operations at both locations, which can mean a two-hour car ride if traveling on crowded freeways, said Lincoln Ferris, vice president of community relations for Services Group of America, the parent company of Food Services of America.

"We don’t think we’ll be doing lots of it (transporting by helicopter), but there will be occasions where we’ll need to move management," Ferris said.

Ferris said the company helicopter is white with brown and gray stripes and looks much like those used by television news crews.

The flight pattern to and from the Everett location avoids residential areas and does not interfere with flight patterns at nearby Paine Field.

Food Services of America has built the first 200,000 square feet of a 475,000-square-foot office and warehouse building in Everett at 1001 Shuksan Way.

The Food Services of America helipad would be about six football fields – 1,900 feet – away from the closest residentially zoned area. The company plans an average two round-trip flights per weekday with a maximum of six round-trip flights per day, the proposal says.

Weekday trips would be limited to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and weekend trips would have even a shorter time frame with flights starting later in the morning.

The helicopter would fly over freeways and industrial areas, avoiding residential areas. The flight path includes I-5 and Highway 526. And the helicopter would fly to the company site over industrial zoned land in the area of 80th Street SW and 75th Street SW.

The only other helipads in town are at Everett’s hospital, which has one at each campus.

Trauma patients transported via helicopter land at Providence Everett Medical Center’s Colby Campus. And, during emergencies, the helipad at the Pacific Campus may be used.

The Federal Aviation Administration issued an airspace determination on the new proposal, which means it does not object to the idea.

"It’s a corporate tool," Ferris said. "We’re really looking at this as a business tool during daylight hours."

You can call Herald Writer Kate Reardon at 425-339-3455or send e-mail to

reardon@heraldnet.com.

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