As St. Luke’s plans to expand the Anderson campus again, residents knock the noisy helicopter flight paths

  • The St. Luke’s Anderson campus plans to expand again
  • Town planners endorsed plans for a new five-story, 146-bed wing
  • A planning committee member raised concerns about emergency helicopter flight paths disturbing neighbours

BETHLEHEM TWP, Pennsylvania — After a discussion about parking concerns and helicopter flight paths, the Township Planning Commission said it was impressed by what it saw in the land development plans for St. Luke’s University Health Network’s Anderson campus.

The planners recommended approval of the health system’s proposal for a five-storey expansion that would add 146 beds with a new wing. The addition is to be built between the women’s and children’s wing and the existing tower, which is also proposed to be expanded.

“It is a hospital as part of the expansion that we anticipated. The hospitals, which came in phases, are a further expansion of the existing campus, in line with the master plan.

Bethlehem Twp. Planning Committee Chairman Leslie Walker

Ray Middlelam, vice president of business development and strategy at St. Luke’s, said the site calls for improvements due to continued growth in hospital outreach and growing demand from patients looking for caregivers.

“It’s a hospital as part of the expansion that we anticipated,” said Leslie Walker, chairman of the planning committee. “The hospitals, which came in phases, are a further expansion of the existing campus, in line with the master plan.”

Anderson’s campus covers hundreds of acres on Fremansburg Street and Route 33, about halfway between Easton and Bethlehem.

Helicopter arrival at the hospital

The planners also voted unanimously to approve conditional use of the campus’ temporary helipad while a permanent helipad will be included in the new building once it is completed.

Scott Pastersky, project manager with Keystone Consulting Engineers, said the temporary helipad will be placed on top of one of the parking lots during construction of the expansion.

And after townspeople’s comments about medical evacuations disturbing surrounding neighborhoods near the hospital, developer representatives also agreed to take a look at guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“You’ve got enough space there, between 200 acres on this side and 300 acres there. If you guys can come down, or stay up and turn around and come in—all you have to do. Why do you keep walking around the neighborhood? That’s the problem.”

Bethlehem Twp. Planning Commission member Barry Roth

Planning Commission member Barry Roth said he wishes helicopter pilots could take advantage of the surrounding hundreds of acres on the Route 33 side of the hospital campus.

Instead, he added, helicopters sometimes fly over residential neighbourhoods, including his own. He added that the current proposed helipad angle would make the situation worse.

“You’ve got plenty of room there,” Roth said, “between 200 acres on this side and 300 acres over there.” “If you guys can come down, or stay up and turn around and come in — all you have to do.

“Why do you keep going to the neighborhood? That’s the problem.”

Roth said the hospital’s developers were “not welcoming” to the neighborhood’s original residents.

Amanda Rodenbusch, the town’s director of community development, double-checked with hospital representatives that any proposed flight plans had to go through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and PennDOT’s office of flight.

“Helicopters are a problem. They come to my house. I’m not near the hospital.”

Tom Keefer, Bethlehem Twp. resident

Planning Commission Vice Chairman James Daley asked if anyone was able to pass on these types of concerns to an appropriate agency for further investigation. The developers said the public is welcome to submit that information to the FAA.

One resident, Tom Keefer, said helicopters should fly over highways rather than neighborhoods, adding that he sees them flying over residential areas about once a month.

“Helicopters are a problem,” he added. “They came to my house; I’m not near the hospital.”

St. Luke's Anderson Campus Extension Parking Lot

Will Oliver

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Keystone Engineering Consultants

Some of the proposed parking spaces for the new expansion at St. Luke’s Anderson campus.

Parking on site

Committee member Anna Thomas asked if the parking estimates for expansion take into account another potential addition that could come in the next two decades.

Pastersky said they had always planned to have excess parking capacity, but putting employee parking in the south was critical to this particular plan. He added that maintaining the flow of the campus would benefit continuity at the site.

Roth said the high-intensity headlights shining down on Fremansburg Street from cars parked on the hospital campus can be distracting to drivers.

Other ideas

Pasterski said the on-site pond, which was initially designed to support the future construction of a full campus within the watershed, has sufficient capacity to minimize the impact of rainwater on the riverbed.

He said that PennDOT-approved handicap access ramps will come with the expansion and will be used just as they are elsewhere on campus. He added that there would be no reduction in the number of trees in the streets.

Resident Paul Vejrzynowicz said hospital officials paid great attention to the hospital’s appearance and landscaping for its location on the outskirts of the town.

(marks for translation)Bethlehem Town

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