Hospital expansion requests approval

June 04, 2003|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, pa. - Over objections raised by some neighborhood residents, the Chambersburg Zoning Hearing Board Tuesday night unanimously approved a variance and several special exceptions to clear the way for a $40 million expansion of Chambersburg Hospital.

The first phase of the project, a 20,000-square-foot, $11 million expansion of the hospital's emergency room, could begin by this October, according to John Massimilla, the vice president for administration. That phase will increase the number of beds from 19 to 30, along with adding a lab and radiology services and increasing the number of seats in the waiting area.

Also planned is a 14,000-square-foot addition to the cancer treatment center, a separate building on the hospital's 21.5-acre campus. That would allow medical oncology services to be moved out of the main building and into the center, which now provides radiation treatments.

The third phase is a patient care tower of two or three stories behind the main building, according to Massimilla. During Tuesday's four-hour hearing, Massimilla testified the building could be increased to four stories at some point in the future.


For that reason, the hospital was asking for a variance to the borough zoning ordinance, which limits the height of commercial buildings in a low-density residential zone to 40 feet. The hospital sought and received an 8-foot variance.

The project also will require additional off-street parking for the hospital to meet borough requirements. That part of the plan concerned a number of nearby residents who were allowed to ask questions of the hospital's witnesses during the hearing and present their own testimony.

"It's the expansion of asphalt within a small town setting and the absorption of neighborhoods by the hospital," said Pam Bartl of 232 N. Sixth St., when asked about her biggest concern.

"We are looking at a number of older homes that could be impacted," she said.

One of the special exceptions sought was for a 30-space parking lot on the site of a house at the corner of North Seventh and King streets that is owned by the hospital. Bryan Salzmann, an attorney representing the hospital in the land use planning process, said the hospital wanted the variance and special exceptions approved in their entirety, even though the proposed parking lot is on a separate piece of land.

A hospital is a nonconforming use in a low-density residential area, but it has been located at Lincoln Way East and North Seventh Street since the early part of the last century, long before the zoning ordinance was adopted in the 1950s.

Salzmann and other hospital officials, however, said the project enhances the health, safety and welfare of the community.

Bartl told the board she thought the hospital could relieve pressure on the emergency room there by having emergency services for walk-ins at its 25-acre campus in the borough's north end.

Zoning Board Chairman Hugh Jones told hospital officials not to take any action for 30 days, the time allowed for any party to appeal the board's decision in Franklin County Court.

Massimilla last week estimated the projects could take three to five years to complete and the only phase approved so far by the board of directors is the emergency room expansion.

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