Howard Young Medical Center can build a proposed heliport, the Oneida County Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled today.
In a unanimous vote, the board affirmed a decision by the Oneida County Planning and Zoning Committee to issue a conditional use permit for the project.
A conditional use permit is for use of property that otherwise isn’t allowed.
The town of Woodruff, where the hospital is located, opposed the heliport and had appealed the committee’s decision to the county board of adjustment.
The board reviewed, one by one, the nine standards required under county ordinances for a conditional use permit, and the 13 conditions that the planning and zoning committee imposed. The board kept those conditions intact but will refine and clarify some of them, board chairman Harland Lee said.
The decision came after a public comment period in which the majority of those who spoke supported the heliport.
Two people spoke against it.
Earlier in the day, board members inspected the proposed location of the heliport on the hospital grounds. A helicopter landed and took off multiple times as part of a demonstration.
Laurie Oungst, northern region vice president of hospital operations for Ministry Health Care, the owner of the hospital, said she was “very grateful for the outcome of today’s hearing.”
Town of Woodruff Chairman Michael Timmons called the board’s ruling disappointing. He said he felt bad for residents who live adjacent to the proposed heliport, some of whom have complained about noise.
“These few people are going to be punished for the good of everybody even though they pay their taxes, they volunteer their service, but now they’re losing their peace and quiet and their quiet neighborhood,” Timmons said. “This is going to ruin it.”
One neighbor who attended the inspection said he is commonly awakened late at night or early in the morning by the helicopter. The man declined to give his name to a Lakeland Times reporter.
But there is also broad support for the proposed helipad. The Howard Young Foundation collected about 3,000 signatures calling for approval of the permit.
Timmons said Tuesday evening that he could not comment on whether the town will appeal the Board of Adjustment’s decision.
The board was to meet tonight and its agenda included an item to address the decision by the board of adjustment.
See a complete story about the issue here on our website and also in the Friday, Sept. 13, print edition of The Lakeland Times.
Jonathan Anderson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org