The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 4, 2013

Changing landscape

By HOWARD BALABAN howard.balaban@journal-register.com
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — The Orleans County Planning Board has approved two projects that will significantly alter the landscape in both Medina and Albion.

In Medina, the field near Medina Memorial Hospital will soon feature a helicopter landing pad. In Albion, a new neighbor will soon move in next door to Tim Horton’s on Main Street: Dunkin’ Donuts.

According to Brian Napoli, chairman of the county’s planning board, both additions to the area had some details to be ironed out before gaining approval, and the board dealt with them successfully.

The helipad at MMH has also received village planning board approval. Napoli said because of the nature of the pad and its location, the FAA was involved in its creation. The helipad needed both county and village approval because of its proximity to an intermunicipal boundary, Napoli added.

There was a brief debate about the helipad, Napoli said, but the planning board quickly decided the pad was a necessity.

“Apparently, since MercyFlight lands on the grass, and one time after a hard rain the helicopter got stuck,” Napoli said, rehashing a story from a fellow board member. “They were bringing a patient out for transport, but the helicopter sank in the grass and so they had to bring the patient back in and then back out after they freed the helicopter.

“They decided then that they needed the helipad,” Napoli said.

The hospital field is owned by the hospital foundation, which acquired it from Medina Central School District when it vacated the old high school on Catherine Street. Napoli recalled using the field for physical education classes, walking from the old school to the field. In recent years, the field has seen local flag football teams play games on it during the spring and summer months.

Now, though, the field will soon feature a landing pad for MercyFlight. Napoli said it will likely be made of crushed stone and covered in blacktop so that it is structurally sound. In approving the helipad, Napoli said the biggest debate concerned access to it.

“Original plans called for an access driveway from the office building next to the field,” he explained. Eventually, the plans changed. “Permission was granted by the Department of Transportation to have a curb cut across the street from North Academy Street, and the pad will now be accessible directly from Ohio Street.”

Dolores Horvath, Interim CEO at MMH, said the helipad’s approval means the project can get started as soon as possible.

“We’ll probably start within the next month because we’d like to have it completed before the snow falls,” she said.

Adding the helipad will be quite beneficial to the hospital and the firefighters and paramedics who are tasked with transporting patients to MercyFlight, she noted. Specifically, inclement weather like a hard rain or a driving snow can wreak havoc on the wheels of a stretcher. Snow, mud, and ice all play a factor in creating hazards to patient care. Adding the landing pad, Horvath said, alleviates many of those concerns as a hard surface can be maintained.

Horvath praised the MMH foundation, which set the wheels in motion on the project and is funding it with the help of donors who have given both money and supplies. Though MMH is not a trauma center, Horvath said the helipad could still help turn the hospital into a destination depending on when and where an incoming patient is picked up and the kind of care a patient receives.

Meanwhile, Albion will soon see a vacant warehouse torn down and rebuilt with fresh baked coffee and donuts.

“Dunkin’ Donuts is willing to tear down the warehouse on the north side of Tim Horton’s and rebuild after doing some remediation work on the grounds,” Napoli said. “They liked the lot because it can be accessed by both Main Street and Platt Street.”

Napoli said the planning board reviewed Dunkin’ Donuts’ application, specifically regarding the double entrance and exit. Some questioned why Tim Horton’s, which is its next door competitor, does not have a double access point. Napoli said the answer was simple: “The Tim Horton’s lot does not extend to Platt Street.”

With two competing chains in such close proximity, Napoli said concerns over increased traffic congestion of morning commuters stopping by for their wake-up coffee were raised. However, he said the board ultimately believed the addition of Dunkin’ Donuts would relieve some congestion since it will offer multiple access points. That should reduce the length of the morning lines, he said.

Napoli said the competition will be good for customers, and that Dunkin’ Donuts will likely be starting its project as soon as possible.