SUMMIT – Despite a judge and a zoning board telling Atlantic Health System, Inc. they could not install a helipad on the roof of Overlook Hospital, the New Jersey Department of Transportation has given the project a green light.
In a 6-page letter, Talvin E. Davis, director of the Division of Multimodal Service, noted the significant opposition to the proposed project, but determined that the medical group “is entitled to a helistop license for Overlook Medical Center.”
“The greatest potential benefit to the helistop is the time savings associated with having direct access to emergency treatment care for stroke, neurosurgical and other critical need patients by helicopter at the premier Comprehensive Stroke Center in NJ,” the letter said. “This time savings could be an invaluable medical benefit for patient survival and quality of life which surely outweighs the detrimental effect.”
The many objections included 75 comments of opposition received by the NJDOT and letters from various Summit residents and officials. Included in the letters was a statement of opposition from Summit’s attorney, Thomas Scrivo, and a letter from “Citizens Against the Helipad.”In addition, the NJDOT also reviewed the denial from the Zoning Board of Adjustment in Summit and AHS Hospital Group v. Board of Adjustment of the City of Summit, a superior court decision ruling against the helipad.
Earlier this week, Mayor Ellen Dickson issued the following statement.
“The state Department of Transportation ruling was just received by Common Council and will be formally evaluated by the governing body to determine the position the City will take going forward. It continues to be my goal to collaborate with Overlook and members of our community ensuring that if the project proceeds, it does so in a safe and reasonable manner.”
The helipad, now being referred to by the NJDOT as a helistop, was also opposed by the chairman of the County of Union Air Traffic and Noise Advisory Board, and the executive director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
The battle for the helistop has been ongoing for nearly five years. The first objection came from the zoning board in 2010, and has continued through appeals and court orders until Atlantic Healthcare Systems applied to the NJDOT for the license in November of 2013.
The letter from the NJDOT notes that in their application, Atlantic Health System “claimed that the helistop would not harm the public health, safety and welfare and the development of aeronautics in the state.”
“The applicant also argued that Overlook is recognized as New Jersey’s premiere neuroscience center and that a rooftop helistop was essential for the emergent treatment of stroke and neurosurgical patient care.”
According to the letter, legal notices were then published in two newspapers and invited public comment. The NJDOT received 116 comments in total, including 41 letters of support.
“Approval of the application exercises the authority of the DOT over aviation while taking into account local sentiment.”