BURLINGTON - The Lahey Clinic Foundation, Inc. recently went back in front of the Planning Board to discuss plans regarding the construction of a permanent helideck at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center on Burlington Mall Road.

The proposal is made up of a special permit and site plan, and would result in a new helideck closer to the hospital’s emergency room. This would be an upgrade to the existing helipad because it will enable the hospital to reduce transfer times by not having to rely on elevator transport from the roof to the emergency room. The project also seeks a modest expansion of 365 square-feet to the existing MRI service building.

The existing helipad is located at 33 Burlington Mall Road, as previously approved by the planners in 2016.

“While this helipad location has met the ongoing needs for MedFlight transport, Lahey intends to replace this with a permanent helideck proximate to the emergency room. Although originally envisioned to be located on the roof of the building, this proposed helideck location will enable Lahey to reduce transfer times by not having to rely upon elevator transport from the roof to the emergency room,” explained Local attorney Mark Vaughan, of Riemer & Braunstein, representing the Lahey Clinic Foundation, Inc. “In addition, the existing MRI service building will undergo a modest expansion (365-square-foot) to support the replacement of existing equipment and supporting patient service area.”

The new helideck is expected to be 18-ft. off the ground, which means no elevator and escort from the Burlington Fire Department would be needed, unlike the helipad that was previously located on Kimball Avenue (in the far rear of the Lahey campus). This helipad is expected to be seeded and turned back into green-space, if the new helideck is approved.

With the location of the new helideck, a helicopter would arrive via the same flight path with the top prerogative of avoiding residential neighborhoods. The set flight path uses Rt. 128 as its traveling lane, which was confirmed by Lahey. However, “sometimes” flight paths change, depending on the wind and how hard it’s blowing.

When departing Lahey, the helicopter completes a u-turn maneuver to get back along the Rt. 128 corridor. The rendering Lahey showed encapsulating this u-turn maneuver worried several Planning Board members, primarily because the model showed the path getting a little closer to the nearby Laurel Lane neighborhood than expected. The rendering revealed the u-turn shown is a “worst-case scenario” when it comes to high winds when leaving Lahey.

Planning Board Vice Chair Joseph Impemba previously expressed concern about the flight path, but changed his tune during the meeting.

“I am comfortable with the flight pattern they have shown us. The helicopter will only take a wider path if it is a worst-case wind scenario,” remarked Impemba. “There will likely only one-to-three of these MedFlights every week.”

Even with Impemba’s comments, the planners asked Lahey to provide a rendering of the “more likely flight pattern” rather than the worst-case u-turn scenario. Lahey confirmed they will provide the appropriate visuals at the board’s next meeting.

The planners did convey happiness in seeing Lahey’s emergency room and helideck project come to fruition within the last six years.

“This is a long time coming,” stated Vice Chair Impemba. “It is nice to see the project come full circle.”

Back in 2016, when the hospital’s new emergency room was approved and completed, Lahey’s timeline had the new helideck being erected in 2020/2021, so they are right on schedule with these applications before the planners.

“This will be a big benefit for your patients,” professed Planning Board Chair Barbara L’Heureux. “I am really glad the process is moving forward.”

The planners voted to continue this matter to its next meeting on Feb. 18.

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