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Council denies Syringa helipad demo request

GRANGEVILLE – Takeoff was denied for a helicopter demonstration at Syringa Hospital’s proposed Main Street helipad location.

From here, the matter continues for deliberation at next Tuesday’s April 28 Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting, which will make its recommendations on the proposal for final determination by the Grangeville City Council.

In a four-to-one decision Monday night, April 20, with Councilor Shelley Dumas voting no, council denied a request by hospital CEO Joe Cladouhos for a Life Flight or Medstar helicopter landing and takeoff at the Main and South C streets vacant lot. The request came as a result of the April 6 P&Z meeting where, at the suggestion of a Life Flight pilot, the commission voted a demo be set up to assist in its continued deliberations, specifically on concerns for rotor wash and public disruption in this commercially zoned location.

But Cladouhos’ request Monday night immediately hit a snag with cautions advised by both city attorney Adam Green and Mayor Bruce Walker that just the details of the demonstration be discussed and not those of the proposal overall, as per compliance with the state Local Planning Act. Council must make its final determination on the helipad proposal based only on the P&Z recommendation, which will include public testimony and its minutes. Council considering information outside that process could constitute a violation of the act and open meetings law.

This distinction was frustrating for Cladouhos who noted the “catch-22” of the situation in council needing facts for its decision on the demonstration, but that he was not able to provide them. On an apparent double-standard in play, he referenced that other helicopter landings have occurred in the city, including for EMS training and a recent high school sober graduation event. Mayor Walker said that through this helipad process those other events have been brought to city attention, and as a result the overall issue of helicopters landing in town without notice to the city will have to be addressed by the council.

A lack of facts, as well as this activity not being allowed by city code, was cited by both councilors Scott Winkler and Beryl Grant in their opposition to the request. Grant suggested instead a demo be conducted at the airport that would be sufficient to show participants the physical effects of a helicopter landing and takeoff. Hospital Board Chair Dave Green clarified him and Cladouhos presented the request as per P&Z to see the effects of landing at this location, “to see how a helicopter fits this space, and the noise in that environment.”


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