A helicopter made several trips from the Stonelake National Wildlife Refuge to the Stonelake Landing shopping center on Nov. 1 as part of the environmental review for a proposed hospital in that area.
California Northstate University (CNU) hopes to build a $750 million, 250-bed facility adjacent to its current campus. Those plans would still need to be approved by the city, and the project site must be rezoned before construction can begin.
The recent helicopter flight was performed as a noise study simulation to record sound levels in the area. The proposed project site is located at 2505 West Taron Court, south of Elk Grove Boulevard, near Interstate 5.
As a courtesy to residents of the area, the helicopter flew over the highway, as opposed to over homes.
CNU spokesperson Brian Holloway spoke about the helicopter tests.
“What we’re doing is a helicopter noise test to see how loud the helicopter might be, should the hospital have a heliport at 12 stories high,” he said. “Rather than just do a statistical estimation, we wanted to do a real, live test to see how loud it would be.”
As part of that Federal Aviation Administration-approved process, it was arranged that a certified aircraft charter company would perform the flight.
The sound levels were measured at 10 monitoring stations located within a one-mile radius of the proposed hospital site.
Those stations were mostly located at parks, schools and other sensitive places in the neighborhood. At least one of the stations was located at the wildlife refuge.
Holloway mentioned that the helicopter used in the noise measurements was of the Black Hawk-style variety, which is louder than the medical helicopters that would arrive at the proposed hospital.
“In essence, we’re actually going to be listening to the worst-case (sound level),” he said. “Neighbors might be confused (by that point), but I would imagine that the scientists that are taking the readings will factor in some discount or something for that particular helicopter.
“What is important is to make sure…that the city knows that neighborhood has concerns about the noise of the helicopter. Let’s find out how loud it’s really going to be and what can be done to mitigate that noise, because most trauma centers have helicopter pads.”
To help lessen the noise emitted from a helicopter, CNU would have two-story sound walls built on top of the hospital, Holloway noted.
He added that medical helicopter flights in the Stonelake neighborhood would occur fairly infrequently.
“Most of the trauma centers have (helicopter landing pads), but they only get a flight maybe once, twice, at the most case, three times a month,” he said.
Holloway mentioned that prior to the testing, the city posted details of the noise tests on its website, CNU ran an advertisement in a local newspaper, and an announcement was mailed to every homeowner and tenant within 2,000 feet of the proposed hospital site.
“Interestingly enough, I only received two calls from neighbors,” he said.
However, the proposed hospital is not without controversy, as a community group, Neighbors Ensuring Sincere Transparency, has publicly presented its opposition to having a hospital built in the Stonelake neighborhood.
There are also Stonelake Landing business owners who have expressed their concerns about losing their places of business.
But not all people in the area are opposed to having a hospital in the Stonelake neighborhood.
Peter Mbonu, a longtime resident of that neighborhood, mentioned that he would like to have a hospital built at the proposed site.
“My reaction (to the day’s helicopter flight) is no reaction,” he said. “The only reaction I have is that (the hospital) is going to bring in business.
“I understand that there are people in the neighborhood that are clamoring that they don’t want any noise, they don’t want any traffic, they don’t want this, (and) they don’t want that. Hey, they can move somewhere else.”
Holloway said that he was “pleasantly surprised” that the noise from the helicopter was less than he expected.