Gold Cross/AirMed officials are hoping to expand their helicopter rescue operation to Columbia County.
On Thursday, the Columbia County Planning Commission unanimously approved the rezoning of about 4 acres on Wheeler Road from light industrial to special, which would allow for a helipad.
Many surrounding property owners cited noise and safety concerns as reasons not to allow the rezoning, however.
Those complaints were addressed by the planning commission, which placed caveats on their recommendation:
--The Federal Aviation Administration must approve the site.
--Gold Cross/AirMed must agree to use Wheeler Road for approaches and departures.
--The company must agree to build a fence around the property to limit prop wash -- winds blown by the aircraft's rotors.
--And it must provide a log of their flight takeoff and landing times for the past 60 days.
Because the Wheeler Road site already is in an industrial zone, county officials expect the sound from a helicopter not to add greatly to the existing noise, according to county documents.
Before the meeting, Gold Cross/AirMed Chief Executive Officer Tom Schneider said he will use the property at 4328 Wheeler Road for office operations and as a landing zone for at least one of the company's two helicopters.
The helicopters now operate from a site at Doctors Hospital.
"We needed a little more room," Schneider said. "The building has offices in front, but in the back is a big open space. We can put the helicopters there."
The move won't dramatically increase response times to emergencies, he said.
Columbia County Commission, which must approve the planning commission's recommendation, is expected to review the rezoning proposal Feb. 19.
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