Multimillionaire Claims Vested Right to Fly Helicopters at His Home

OCTOBER 17, 2000

Multimillionaire Nelson Peltz has angered neighbors for years by flying his helicopter in and out of his 157-acre estate in Bedford, the toney town whose residents have included Glenn Close, Michael Crichton, and Ralph Lauren.

"These people with money think they are entitled to anything they can buy, without respect for the law or their neighbors," actor E.G. Marshall said before his death in 1998. Marshall had been a resident of Bedford since the 1960s.

Bedford took Peltz to court in 1996, claiming he was violating zoning, business, and nuisance laws. The town has a 1983 zoning ordinance banning aircraft takeoffs and landings in residential areas.

Peltz, the 58-year-old Triarc Cos. chairman whose worth reached $900 million this year, dropped his challenge to the constitutionality of Bedford's zoning law as the case was about to go to trial Monday before the state Supreme Court. John Dinin, the Bedford town supervisor, called it "a significant victory." John Marwell, Peltz's lawyer, would not comment.

Peltz has agreed to give up the chopper flights if he loses an appeal on one narrow issue. In his appeal Peltz says that for 11 months in 1983 the town did not expressly forbid the takeoffs and landings. He claims that created "a window during which the aircraft usage of High Winds (his estate) became a vested right." If he wins the appeal, Peltz would still have to convince a judge on the same point.

Peltz has abandoned his claim that High Winds had been used for aircraft before 1926, exempting it from the laws that followed. Additionally, he is no longer arguing that helicopter use can be regulated only by the Federal Aviation Administration or that the noise does not affect residents any more than other air traffic flying over Bedford.

The previous owner, DeWitt Wallace, founder of Reader's Digest, used to land planes on an airstrip there in the 1930s but gave it up in 1940 at the behest of his wife, according to a recent biography.

Source: Associated Press