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Group files appeal of approval of hospital's zoning variances

November 30, 1999|By CANDICE BOSELY

Continuing to maintain that moving Washington County Hospital outside of Hagerstown would pose traffic and public safety issues, a group of five Washington County residents has appealed a local judge's decision that essentially gave the hospital the go-ahead to move forward with its plans.

Chuck Hongell, one of the five appellants, said Friday that the appeal was filed earlier this week by the group's attorney, William C. Wantz, and will be heard by the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.

Hongell and the other appellants, Gordon A. Bartels, Janet E. Bartels, Sally R. Hatch and Robert C. Hatch, appealed a decision by Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III, who previously affirmed zoning variances for the project.

Hospital officials are soldiering on despite the appeal.

James P. Hamill, president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health System, called the filing a "huge disappointment," but said that plans otherwise are going well for the new hospital, and that officials are looking forward to breaking ground in January.

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Hamill said he might have more information on the appeal next week.

In August, Boone affirmed the zoning variances on three of four counts, and affirmed the fourth aspect last month, completing his decision.

The hospital wants to move from downtown Hagerstown to a site off Robinwood Drive.

Hongell, who lives in Colonial Park East, a development near the hospital's proposed site, said traffic and public safety concerns are driving his opposition to the move.

Hongell said he worries that increased traffic on the roads by hospital patients, employees, service vehicles and ambulances could be dangerous.

"The roads just won't support it," Hongell said. "Anyone who travels Dual Highway knows how bad Dual Highway and Edgewood (Drive) is."

Increased traffic could have another effect as well.

"I can't allow my daughter to walk to school," Hongell said, because she could be endangered by cars pulling over to yield to an ambulance.

Hongell also expressed concerns about helicopters flying over Eastern Elementary School, saying it could be dangerous and not conducive to a good learning environment.

"I'm just a concerned father who wants to protect his children, basically, his family," Hongell said.

Hongell said that he and the other appellants ? who are paying the legal expenses associated with the appeal out of their pockets ? are "very hopeful" that the appeal will be successful.

"We've been prepared to appeal this from the beginning," he said.

Staff writer Tamela Baker contributed to this story.

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