Putting together an ordinance to control recreational drone use is still on Prairie Village’s agenda — but just barely. The council voted 6-5 Monday night in favor of continuing its discussions on an ordinance that some members felt would be difficult to enforce.
The idea is to address the worries of residents like Kate Faerber, who was disturbed by a drone flying low over people in her yard.
“I think drones sound like a really fun idea, but … there’s a potential for harm and danger,” Faerber said.
The council’s majority vote to continue talking about the ordinance comes with concerns about both safety and the idea that people could misuse drones to harass or spy on people.
There was some confusion over what’s already regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and in what circumstances a city ordinance could make a difference.
The FAA does regulate commercial drone flight, so any city ordinance wouldn’t affect those who use the machines for professional purposes, with the proper licenses. That includes people such as architects, landscapers and media professionals.
City Attorney David Waters said he wasn’t sure to what extent and under which circumstances their regulations apply to recreational flights and whether the rules specify if municipalities can require people to register recreational drones.
Waters did say that cities can’t govern certain things, such as the height at which a drone can fly.
Councilman Ron Nelson said that he thought some drone privacy intrusions could be addressed under existing city regulations for crime such as stalking, but Mayor Eric Mikkelson said that many of these regulations require the offender to be physically present to be in violation of the rules.
Ron Nelson also expressed concern about enforcing a drone-focused ordinance.
“There really isn’t any way to identify what it is. … By the time the police department comes out to investigate, it’s gone,” he said.
Several council members said they were worried that writing an ordinance that the city isn’t able to enforce would give citizens false hope that they’re doing something about the drone issue.
“I don’t want to pass an ordinance that we’re going to have so much trouble enforcing … that gives our residents this sort of false sense that we’ve done something when we haven’t,” said Councilman Andrew Wang.
Still, Councilwoman Jori Nelson favored having something on the books.
“It just seems like we should have something there for our residents’ protection,” she said.
Wang, along with fellow council members Dan Runion, Courtney McFadden, Ted Odell and Terrence Gallagher, opposed moving forward with more discussion about the
Council members Chad Herring, Jori Nelson, Ron Nelson, Serena Schermoly, Tucker Poling and Sheila Myers voted to keep discussing the ordinance at a future meeting. Brooke Morehead was absent from that part of the meeting.
In other business, city officials expect a construction project aiming to help drainage near 83rd Street and Somerset Drive to start next month and last until the fall. Somerset Drive will close for a maximum of 60 days, starting sometime in June, and Delmar Lane and Fontana Street will close for the duration of the project.