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Lompoc City Council To Review Proposed Ordinance Regulating Drones

Proposed regulations governing the use of unmanned aircraft, including drones, in city limits will be discussed at the Lompoc City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

A proposed ordinance was developed by City Attorney Joe Pannone at the request of council members after several residents in one neighborhood complained to police and council members about the invasion of their privacy by a neighbor’s drone. 

In April, resident David Marston told council members about a neighbor’s camera-equipped drone peeping into the windows of his home. Marston said he complained to police but due to the uncertainty over legal limitations on the recreational use of drones, police said they could do no more than file a report. 

Other residents complained the neighbor’s drone hovered over and possibly filmed a child’s neighborhood birthday party in a resident’s backyard. 

“Although I speak from experience, this issue will affect the privacy of all residents in the future and it’s already affecting many in our neighborhood,” Marston said, asking that a city ordinance be developed to enforce existing state privacy laws and federal regulations requiring registration of and limitations on use of unmanned aircraft.  

Pannone said the draft city ordinance is consistent with existing state and federal regulations and would apply to unmanned aircraft systems that “present a risk of public safety and welfare, nuisance, and violations of privacy within the City and concerning City residents and specific City structures and spaces.”

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, introduced legislation earlier this year — Senate Bill 868 — that would regulate the use of drones and other remote-piloted aircraft to protect public safety and privacy. 

According to Pannone’s report, Jackson’s bill passed the Senate, but failed to pass its first Assembly committee hearing. The legislation is now up for reconsideration. 

Last year, a state law was enacted that extended the definition of physical invasion of privacy to include “the airspace above the land of another person without permission.”

The proposed city ordinance is not expected to be voted on Tuesday night. Instead, Pannone’s staff report asked for council direction on whether work to develop a local ordinance should be “discontinued.” 

Pannone also suggested council members consider the costs of enforcing an ordinance if adopted.

“The ultimate cost of enforcement depends on how extensive the population of drones becomes, how they are operated, and whether the City Council desires enforcement to be a higher priority than other matters being addressed by the Police Department,” Pannone wrote.

Marston told Noozhawk Monday he was not aware the draft ordinance was on the council agenda. He said he planned to attend the council meeting after he reviewed the proposal to see if it addressed his concerns.

Other items on the council agenda include:

»  A monthly update on the status of a proposed motorsports park at Lompoc Airport; 

»  A proposal to retroactively waive water management retrofit fees in the old town commercial zone to encourage downtown revitalization; and 

»  Aa request by Councilman Jim Mosby to expand City Council and commission meeting documents available to the public in the lobby at City Hall. 

The council meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in City Council chambers, 100 Civic Center Plaza.

Noozhawk contributing writer Carol Benham can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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