Commissioners in Aventura Tuesday unanimously approved a heliport on the roof of its local hospital, despite protests from officials in neighboring Hallandale Beach claiming that the proposed flight plan could disrupt business development.
The heliport would be on the rooftop of the north tower of the Aventura Hospital and Medical Center at 20900 Biscayne Blvd. The medical facility is currently in the process of applying to the state to operate a trauma center. The hospital has an April deadline to submit its application to the state and one of the requirements of the application is to have a completed heliport.
Currently, patients must be sent 15 miles away to receive care at a trauma center, said Dianne Goldenberg, CEO of Aventura Hospital.
“When an accident occurs, seconds count,” Goldenberg said. “The quicker the response, the greater the survival rate.”
Resident Bob Diamond, a former Aventura commissioner and hospital board member, spoke up in agreement and recounted an experience of a loved one who suffered a trauma, which couldn’t be treated at Aventura hospital, and was then sent to a neighboring trauma center.
“If the trip had been any longer, she wouldn’t have made it,” Diamond said. “Minutes are critical. If you save one life, then this project was worth it.”
But Hallandale Beach City Manager Renee Miller urged the commission to defer the resolution until the city was able to fully gauge the economic impact of the proposed FAA flight plan, which will travel from the northeast on Hallandale Beach Boulevard and Gulfstream Park before landing at Aventura Hospital.
Hallandale Beach learned of the proposed flight plan in late December and FAA regulators told the city they reserve the right to limit height and development of proposed buildings in the flight path on US 1 and Hallandale Beach Boulevard, Miller said.
“The flight path is mostly in Hallandale Beach,” Miller said. “The impact of that is indeterminate. We have not had the opportunity to vet this fully.
“We are very concerned not only for the future development along our corridor, but projects that we have already approved and our community has already vested in,” Miller said.
At least 10 pending applications for developments in Hallandale Beach could be affected by the proposed flight path, Miller said.
Kirk Shaffer, an aviation attorney hired by the hospital, challenged Hallandale Beach claims by stating that the FAA doesn’t have the right to become involved in local planning and zoning and can’t prevent the construction of buildings.
“We want to be good neighbors,” Commissioner Howard Weinberg said. “No one wants any development that is going to economically help our next door neighbor to be adversely impacted. I can’t imagine that it would be.”
Rev. Will Keyser, city of Aventura chaplain and chairman of the ethics committee at Aventura Hospital, spoke in support of the heliport.
“Are three or four more 30-story buildings more important than saving a life?” Keyser said.
Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution with several conditions, including the right to revoke the conditional use permit at any time and to modify the flight plan if the height of a Hallandale Beach building development is affected. Mayor Enid Weisman, who is the chair of the board of directors for Aventura hospital, recused herself and left the commission chambers during the vote.
The next Aventura commission meeting is scheduled for Feb.3.