Monterey council considers medical center helipad
Monterey, Va. – The Monterey Town Council has taken the first step in granting the Highland Medical Center an easement to construct a helicopter landing pad on town property just north of the Medical Center. The Council meeting last Thursday included a public hearing on this matter. Medical Center Executive Director Tom Kurtz spoke to the Town Council.
“We came to the Town Council last month to request your consideration of an easement for the helipad not just for the Medical Center’s use but for the community’s use,” said Mr. Kurtz. “When we were awarded this grant, the helipad was part of that, and, as I think Mr. Garber mentioned, last month, that because we were using federal funds on the project, that threw us into another category of size of helicopter pad, which makes it a little larger. I think it is a 65 foot by 65 foot pad to the northwest of the Medical Center,” he said.
Mr. Kurtz went on to note that the medical center would have to put the helipad on its own property, if the Town did not approve this request. That would require moving many Medical Center parking spaces onto Town property and would put the parking further from the building, a less desirable situation. Town Attorney Melissa Dowd summarized some of the issues to be dealt with before the lease could be approved by the town.
“The Town definitely has the authority under the Virginia Code to lease a portion of public property,” said Ms. Dowd. “The statute says you can’t lease for more than forty years. There are two issues that I have identified that I think Council needs to be aware of in considering this. One is, under the grant, the federal government will take a lien on that portion that is leased. So, if you lease exactly 65 feet by 65 feet, the federal government will file a lien on that piece of land,” she said.
The second major issue is that of zoning. The Town property where the helipad site has been proposed is currently zoned B2 and R3. Neither of those zoning districts currently permits siting of a helicopter pad. Ms. Dowd recommended that the Medical Center make a rezoning request to the Highland County Planning Commission to add an emergency services helicopter pad as a conditional use in both B2 and R3 districts. The Commission would also have to then grant the Medical Center a conditional use permit to site its helipad at the proposed location.
The only public comment on the helipad matter came from Sheila Judah, wife of Bath County attorney Peter Judah. She asked about the safety zone around the helipad. Engineer John Garber, who has produced the preliminary drawings of the helipad site, described the helipad and safety zone. The helipad will be a square 65 feet on each side. The safety zone around that will be an additional 30 feet wide, so that the whole area will be a square 125 feet long on each side. Mrs. Judah then asked about whether the wind from the helicopter blades could damage the roofs of buildings located near the helipad. John Garber said that the helicopters will be at such an altitude as they pass over adjacent buildings, that they are unlikely to damage any adjacent property. The Council then approved a motion to have Town Attorney Melissa Dowd draw up the lease agreement for review by the Council. The Medical Center will make the rezoning request to the Planning Commission, which will require another public hearing. So the earliest this rezoning could be approved would be the December meeting of the Planning Commission.