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Drones added to items banned from county parks

What do drones, skinny dipping and liquor have in common?

All three are banned in county-owned parks.

Drones became the most recent addition to the list during Monday’s county commissioners meeting. Initially, commissioners were scheduled to approve the additional ban without any public discussion. The original agenda included a drone ban as part of the consent agenda — used for items with unanimous support.

At the start of the meeting, however, Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Greene asked that consideration of the ban be removed from the consent agenda. Greene, who serves as commissioners’ liaison to the county’s parks board, gave a brief statement clarifying why commissioners supported the ban, which passed unanimously.

He said remote-controlled airplanes and other flying machines have been banned in parks for years. Adding the word “drones” to the list was a clarification on rules already in place, he said.

“We don’t want to eliminate our citizens from parks because we might not like what they’re doing, but typically it’s a safety issue,” Greene said. “It can be a privacy issue. They can put cameras on these things now.”

Greene said drones may be thought of as simply toys used by children, but other things could happen in the future that might be concerning.

No one spoke during the meeting’s public comment period about the ban.

Once Greene finished making his short statement, the ban was approved without opposition. Greene made the initial motion to approve the measure.

The county’s ban on drones will join a section of the parks rules labeled “aviation.” Before Monday’s vote, the parks rules already included the word “flying machine” as an item not allowed. County officials, including Greene, have said the current rules already apply to drones.

The word “drone” is a term colloquially used to describe quadcopters with cameras. They’ve recently exploded in popularity and the Federal Aviation Administration expects up to a million drones will be sold during the holiday season.

In other business from Monday’s meeting:

• Commissioners received presentations from Charlotte-based firms Benesch and McAdams on the county’s parks master plan.

The two companies were selected as finalists to oversee the master plan. Commissioners didn’t select a firm during Monday’s meeting.

• Commissioners voted to allow County Manager Aaron Church to sign a five year lease with the NC Highway Patrol for a hangar at the Rowan County Airport.

The proposed lease will charge $3.39 per square foot for the first two years and $4 per square foot for the last three years.

• Commissioners voted to accept a grant of $58,000 for Dan Nicholas Park.

The grant came as part of the state legislature’s budget. Dan Nicholas Park will also hire an additional naturalist as part of the grant. Various enrichment projects at the park are also planned.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.




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