Gold Cross/AirMed officials want to expand their business into Columbia County and bring a helicopter with them.
During a meeting Tuesday with the Columbia County Commission, Gold Cross asked the group to approve the rezoning of about four acres at 4328 Wheeler Road for use as an office, ambulance bay and landing zone for at least one of the company's two rescue helicopters.
Ed Smith, co-owner of the Adventure Crossing park next door to the proposed Gold Cross site, told commissioners that the noise levels would be too great for children using his facility, which features a go-kart track and borders Interstate 20.
The decibels generated by a single-rotor helicopter is akin to a busy city street and slightly less than a lawn mower, according to data from the Federal Aviation Administration.
"We believe there's got to be somewhere else in this county for this needed service," Smith said. "We're not disputing it is needed."
Both of AirMed's helicopters currently operate from a site at Doctors Hospital.
Hospital personnel have not made any noise complaints to AirMed regarding the helicopter, said Willard Hogan, a Realtor for Meybohm Commercial Property, which is handling the land sale.
Smith also expressed concern that his property might be used as an emergency landing area should the helicopter malfunction, which might endanger his customers. Too many power lines cross Wheeler Road, the proposed path AirMed officials said they would use for the majority of the ingresses and egresses from the site, to safely land a helicopter in case of an emergency, he also said.
AirMed chief pilot Todd Hatfield told the commission he and his pilots always are conscious of their surroundings and typically avoid areas of large crowds. However, he said helicopters fly daily above congested urban areas and it is an accepted factor of his business.
Also, AirMed pilots are trained in emergency landings and avoiding power lines and structures, Hatfield said.
Steve Clifton, another neighboring land owner, expressed concern that the proposed landing area for the helicopter is too small and comes too close to his shared easement and a metal building.
The size of the landing zone proposed for the site meets FAA requirements and is larger than 80 percent of the landing sites used by AirMed in other Southeastern locations, Hatfield added.
The commission unanimously agreed to the rezoning with some stipulations: The FAA must approve the site, Gold Cross/AirMed must show FAA approval of flight operations following Wheeler Road, the landing area for the helicopter must not cross into the access easement jointly used by the neighboring property to the east, the company must erect a fence around the property to limit prop wash - winds generated by the aircraft's rotors - and the agency must provide a log of their flight takeoff and landing times for the past 60 days.
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