Newton Falls looking at ordinance to regulate drone use

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NEWTON FALLS, Ohio - Thousands attended the annual fourth of July Celebration in the Trumbull County village of Newton Falls on Wednesday.

Hovering over them during a spectacular fireworks display were drones.

"At first we thought they were alien invaders," said Joanne Ballas, who lives nearby.

" I have never seen one like that and it was like it was right there hovering around the fireworks and then off in the distance there was another one," said Christine Deverick.

In the last month, Councilman-at-large Tarry Alberini says he has taken several calls from constituents concerned about drones flying over their neighborhoods.

"A week or two ago, I was out on my back deck and I heard this humming sound or this buzzing sound and it was a drone hovering over my residence. Well, I felt this is like a little invasion of my space here so when I had the two or three complaints, I get what they are saying," said Alberini, who took his concerns to the village law director asking for an ordinance to try to regulate the drones before they become a bigger problem.

"Probably two primary concerns are privacy issues and then also safety issues. You don't want a drone falling out of the sky and hurting someone," said Law Director Joe Fritz.

The proposed ordinance would not permit drones flying over parks or near public buildings including schools, administrative offices and utilities buildings without permission.

It also protects a property owner's privacy.

Fritz says Newton Falls is not re-inventing the wheel. The community's proposed ordinance is crafted after ordinances that have already been passed in other cities and really only gives local authorities the ability to enforce federal rules that are already on the books.

"It would not be a high priority for the federal government to do something with it if there's a violation," said Fritz. "This way, we have enforcement at a local level so the ordinance as we wrote it up is not any more restrictive than the federal government has in place. It just allows the local subdivision to enforce it."

Under the proposed ordinance, any violation would be a fourth degree misdemeanor.

"I don't have a problem with drones. I think they are a great tool for safety forces and things like that and businesses, but I think there has to be some type of parameters for people to operate those drones," said Alberini.

The ordinance has been through its first reading. It will be a month or more before it actually becomes law.

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