Council approves medical helipad site near Fayette Pavilion

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A typical Air Evac helicopter shown on the company's Facebook page.
A typical Air Evac helicopter shown on the company's Facebook page.

A proposal to establish an Air Evac helipad on Promenade Parkway near the Fayette Pavilion was approved March 7 by the Fayetteville City Council. The proposal was met with opposition by a large number of residents living nearby.

Zoned M-1 (light manufacturing), the 1.9-acre site is located in the Promenade Industrial Park, behind the Uptown Square Shopping Center and across Ga. Highway 85 North from the Fayette Pavilion.

The approval of a special exception for Air Evac to establish a one-helicopter pad, a maintenance bay and staff quarters for a pilot, nurse and paramedic came on a 3-1 vote, with Councilwoman Kathaleen Brewer opposed and with Councilman Scott Stacy abstaining given that he is employed by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The approval of the special exception came with conditions such as the prohibition on outside helicopter maintenance and a no-fly zone over residences.

More than a dozen residents of the Pine Trail Road area, with homes situated to the south and southeast of the site, spoke in opposition.

Jim Bischoff took the lead in opposition, citing what he said were the various effects of noise and vibrations that are experienced by individuals and residential structures when in proximity to a helicopter.

As with many of the other speakers, Bischoff stated his belief that residential property values would suffer if the helipad operation was approved.

He also took the position that, if approved, Air Evac could later want to expand and would become a maintenance facility for more than the single chopper that would operate at the site.

Also speaking was Pat King, who said she had a high opinion of the type of service provided by Air Evac, “But not in my back yard.”

Several other speakers echoed those sentiments, and asked why Air Evac wanted to set up shop near them as opposed to another area.

Air Evac representative Whitney Miller said other potential sites were reviewed, with the Promenade site already carrying the needed zoning, offering a close proximity to Piedmont Fayette Hospital and was situated at a higher elevation

Pertaining to the noise level and checked in several locations at and near the site at the time of a city-required test flight, city staff recorded no readings over 90 decibels, about the same level as a power mower and a motorcycle..

Senior Planner Julie Brown said the nearest residence is 693 feet away. Additionally, a permanent wooded buffer averaging approximately 275 feet is included in that distance. The 693-foot distance is far greater than comparable helipad sites checked by staff that were in proximity to both businesses and homes.

Per the agreement, one helicopter will be located at the site. Air Evac budgets for 30 flights per month. This averages to one flight per day, however some-days may see more, and some days may have zero flights as this business operates on an as needed basis 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Air Evac.

Brown said a special exception was required for the proposal because the proposed use (emergency medical air transport) was not listed as an approved or prohibited use in any of the city zoning designations.

Citing examples of uses already permitted for the M-1 site that would be free of the requirement for a special exception, Brown said those included freight terminals, gasoline sales, dry cleaning plants, firing ranges, automotive garages and towing services.

The proposal was previously recommended for approval by the Fayetteville Planning and Zoning Commission.

Below, Below, a group of neighbors southeast of a helipad site approved March 7 by the Fayetteville City council spoke in opposition to a plan by Air Evac to establish a one-chopper, emergency medical transport site on Promenade Parkway in the Fayette Pavilion area. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Below, a group of neighbors southeast of a helipad site approved March 7 by the Fayetteville City council spoke in opposition to a plan by Air Evac to establish a one-chopper, emergency medical transport site on Promenade Parkway in the Fayette Pavilion area. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Above, a group of neighbors southeast of a helipad site approved March 7 by the Fayetteville City council spoke in opposition to a plan by Air Evac to establish a one-chopper, emergency medical transport site on Promenade Parkway in the Fayette Pavilion area. Photo/Ben Nelms.