Only a few hundred feet separate I-95 from Keith Roberts’ North Miami Beach home.
Aside from the sounds of traffic on the interstate, Roberts said he has also had to adjust to sounds of ambulances heading to and from next-door neighbor Jackson North Medical Center.
“After a while, you don’t notice it anymore, but it is something you learn to adjust to,” said Roberts, 53, who has been living in his North Miami Beach home his entire life. “Our Florida room and the kitchen are all facing the hospital, and the sound is directly over us.”
Although Roberts has learned to live with the sounds that surround his home, one adjustment that he and his neighbors don’t want to make is to the sound of helicopters landing near their houses.
Hospital officials are looking into adding a helipad to the North Miami Beach hospital in an effort to create Level II trauma centers at both Jackson North and Jackson South Community Hospital in Palmetto Bay.
A timeline for the upgrade has not been set because of factors such as regulatory approval, zoning, infrastructure improvements and ongoing discussions with nearby residents, according to hospital officials.
Some of those discussions with residents revolve around the noise that a proposed helipad will cause.
In December, the hospital had an acoustical study conducted at Jackson North to determine what the potential noise impact of a proposed helipad would be on the surrounding residential neighborhood.
That study, which was conducted by Edward Dugger & Associates, concluded that noise levels from a helicopter would not be loud enough to pose a danger to residents in the surrounding area, according to an official with the company.
Sound measurements were taken from four points around the area where the proposed helipad would be placed while a Bell helicopter mimicked a landing course over the property. The sample locations were roughly 160-300 feet from the proposed site.
“We have some of the best experts working with us to ensure that this is going to be beneficial to the community, and it will have a minimal impact with just a handful of transports to Jackson North,” said Edwin O’Dell, media relations and outreach corporate director in the Jackson Health System.
He said that a majority of trauma patients brought to the hospital are expected to come via ground — not air — transportation.
“A review of the 2010 Trauma Registry Report estimates that helicopter transports will be at 5 percent for Jackson North,” O’Dell said via email.
O’Dell said the hospital anticipates one to two trauma patients per day, or a maximum of 14 per week on average, with a small percentage of those patients transported by helicopter.
“This translates into .7, or less than one helicopter transport per week,” O’Dell said in the email.
Residents remain skeptical about the idea of having a trauma center so close to their homes.
"The whole house was trembling; you could hear a thundering sound," Francisco Rivera, 48, said after the sound test. "I have grandchildren who stay here — I don’t want them waking up to that in the middle of the night."
Aside from the sound, residents’ concerns include safety and additional traffic.
“I don’t want my property values to decrease because no one wants to buy it like that,” Roberts said, referring to the helipad’s distance to his house.
Prior to being part of the Jackson Health System, the facility was known as Parkway Hospital and had a helipad used for a trauma center that existed in the 1980s.
That trauma center has been closed for more than 20 years, but the helipad is still used occasionally for small helicopters to transport patients from Jackson North to Jackson Memorial, spokeswoman Jennifer Piedra said via email.
"The helipad is still used occasionally for small helicopters to transport patients from Jackson North to Jackson Memorial but is no longer usable for trauma," she wrote. "There are many reasons for that, including the subsequent construction of the I-95 flyover and the addition of new power lines in the area."
With the proposed helipad, the primary approach would be east of Interstate 95 from north to south and back out north, avoiding residential areas, according to Piedra.
The hospital brought forward their plans for the proposed helipad during a Dec. 10 planning and zoning meeting, when a vote to approve it failed to pass after a 3-3 vote.
However, the issue is slated to appear before the city council for approval at an upcoming meeting.
In the meantime, hospital officials plan on meeting with the North Miami Beach Civic Association later this month to discuss the acoustical study and other concerns that residents may have.
“We are eager to meet with the homeowners association to demonstrate and prove to them the great enhancements that are coming to an already great hospital — Jackson North,” O’Dell said.