Vancouver Coastal Health was granted an exemption by Transport Canada on Tuesday and won't have to lower the streetlights and traffic poles near the health care centre helipad.
Lowering the poles was necessary to acquire H2 status for helicopters but VCH had asked for the exemption, claiming the work would be impossible to do on short notice. The exemption is for the short term and a permanent solution will need to be worked out in the new year.
"Next year for permanent H2 status, we have to look at reconfiguration of the standards of the lights at the intersection," said Trudi Beutel, spokesperson for Vancouver Coastal Health. "I think in and of itself, the short term extension is a caveat."
As far as Beutel knows, there is no deadline on this extension. VCH has made it clear to Transport Canada that they are committed to making these changes and working hard to have them completed as soon as possible.
"Everyone's working from the same song sheet, that this is an interim measure for the ski season (only)," Beutel said.
This was one of three processes necessary for VCH to obtain H2 status. The second process is the traffic management plan to close pedestrian and vehicular traffic at Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road when a helicopter is landing.
The RCMP is currently undertaking this until VCH has their staff trained for that task. A long-term traffic management plan is being worked out and may include a traffic light similar to what has been installed out front of fire halls.
The third step is tree removal to establish the emergency landing area. Beutel said VCH needs to go to tender for the landscaper to cut the trees between day lot 4 and Lorimer Road. That tender will be posted Monday and closed later in the week.
"If all goes well, we expect to have all that work done by the middle of December," she said.
Joe Paul, manager of development services for the Resort Municipality of Whister, noted that parking spaces will likely not be affected by the emergency landing area and some signage may be included so people know that this is an emergency landing area, to discourage lingering.
At its last meeting, council passed a resolution that would give staff the authority to allow the removal of the trees without going back to council for approval.
Beutel said she is not sure of the timelines for all the work that needs to be done but they are aiming to have H2 by "mid-to-late December."
"When we get these three things in place, this is for the short term for the ski season of our H2 flight pad," Beutel said. "Once we get these things in place, it still means we have to do more work to obtain permanent H2 status, but at least it keeps us operating H2 for the ski season."
Some trees have already been cut around the helipad and Paul said Transport Canada is satisfied with the tree removal around the helipad and VCH now retains H1 status.