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Beta Technologies founder Kyle Clark (right) answers questions before the Lincoln zoning commission on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Screenshot

Vermont aviation entrepreneur Kyle Clark faced questions from the city council Wednesday night about an aerial acrobatics he allegedly performed on a neighbor’s property in Lincoln.

Clark, founder of South Burlington-based electric aircraft company Beta Technologies, was aiming to build a 60-foot-wide, 1,500-foot-long grass runway in a home he bought last year in rural Addison County town.

Clark applied for a runway permit in March. The city’s zoning administrator issued him, but neighbor Marilyn Ganal filed an appeal. During a three-hour special meeting Wednesday night, the city’s zoning board heard both sides.

Claudine Safar, Ganal’s attorney, showed Clark a video of the alleged acrobatics, which neither the spectators nor the board could see, but which was accompanied by Ganal’s comments describing several maneuvers Clark had performed in the area, including “falls and dives”. “flipping” and “barrel”.

Clarke smiled as the video played, telling Safar that Ganal’s comment did not accurately describe where he was flying in relation to Ganal. Clarke said the video showed it was “obviously not flying” over Ganal’s property.

Safar also asked Clark about his decision to put up a “Low Flying Plane” sign next to a neighbor’s property in Underhill, where Clark lived before he moved to Lincoln, after she complained about him doing acrobatics in the area. . Safar accused Clark of “terrorizing” Underhill’s neighbor, Annie Murphy, by flying low near her house. When a neighbor complained, Safar said he put up a sign “to let her know that planes will continue to fly over her house.”

Over the objections of Clark’s lawyers, Safar presented acrobatic evidence and a sign to set the stage for later testimony, which she said would show Clark had a habit of performing tricks on neighbors’ property and intimidating them.

“He flies his low-flying plane over the rooftops of his neighbors,” Safar said. “That’s what he did at Underhill. That’s what he’s going to do here.”

Clark revealed that he had 26 planes, five of them electric.

One of his attorneys, Liam Murphy, argued that Lincoln’s zoning regulations did not cover aircraft or runways, nor did they cover noise, lighting, or glare standards. Murphy argued that only the Federal Aviation Administration could regulate airspace and that the city could have no role in regulating aircraft while they were in the air.

Murphy said a runway permit was not required, adding that runways are common in Vermont.

Christian Chorba, another attorney representing Ganal, countered that private airstrips are usually not random for single-family homes and therefore no permit should have been issued. The vast majority of private airstrips in Vermont are hospital or farm helipads, or are used for skydiving or pest control, Chorb said. He said that very few people are allowed to live in single-family homes.

“People don’t use airplanes often,” Chorba said. “People don’t often have private runways in their homes. The idea that anyone in the city can build a quarter-mile runway without permission is wrong.”

Board members decided to end the hearing on Wednesday after three hours, when Safar said she still wanted to present evidence from two neighbors, including Annie Murphy, a neighbor from Underhill. By that time, none of the long list of Lincoln residents who wanted to speak had the opportunity to do so. The board did not indicate whether Murphy would be allowed to testify, but scheduled a hearing for July 12 to allow others from Lincoln to testify.

Beta Technologies is a pioneer in electric aircraft. The company has contracted with UPS to sell emission-free, quiet aircraft that could one day replace large intercity diesel trucks.

Clark’s personal flights have attracted attention before. Last year, he made a warning landing in a hayfield in Richmond when the engine of a plane he had just bought from New Hampshire failed.

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Fred Tees

About Fred

Fred Teece covers business and economics for VTDigger. He is originally from Bethesda, Maryland and graduated from Williams College with a degree in political science. He is the recipient of the Radio, Television and Digital News Association’s Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative journalism and corporate reporting. Fred has worked for The Journal of Commerce, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, NBC News and WBUR, and has written for Le Matin, The Dallas Morning News and The American Homefront Project.