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Borough Council weighs hospital rezoning

November 19, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A plan to create a health-care service and institutional zones in the area of Chambersburg Hospital is likely to get some additional fine-tuning before the Chambersburg Borough Council schedules a public hearing early next year.

The council discussed the hospital's proposal Tuesday night and will do so again next Tuesday before scheduling a public hearing, probably sometime in January.

The borough's Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Nov. 4 to recommend that the council amend the zoning ordinance to create the two zones, according to Borough Planner Gary Norris.

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Some council members, however, expressed reservations about language in the proposed amendment that could allow the hospital to operate an incinerator or a boarding house.

Councilman Robert Wareham said the proposal included language allowing "uses that are customary and incidental" to the operation of a hospital and he cited an incinerator as an example.

Bryan Salzmann, an attorney representing the hospital, said there is some broad language in the ordinance to cover unexpected needs.

"It's definitely a call by your zoning officer" if something comes up that is not among the specific permitted uses in the ordinance, Salzmann said. He predicted an incinerator would not be among them because it is old technology for disposing of waste.

Councilman Kenneth Gill questioned language that would allow the hospital or some other entity to operate a boarding house for patients, patients' families or hospital personnel in the zone.

Council President William McLaughlin recommended that the hospital come back with a proposal that eliminates the possibility of an incinerator and has clearer language regarding boarding houses.

"The things they say they need, they need," McLaughlin said of the hospital.

"They have a facilities problem that needs to be addressed," he said.

McLaughlin said he wanted the council to iron out any differences before advertising for a public hearing.

Earlier this year, the hospital proposed creating a health-care services district that would extend from Coldbrook Avenue west to an alley between North Seventh and North Sixth streets. The zone, if approved, would have allowed more than two dozen permitted uses, including outpatient clinics, professional offices, laboratories and parking areas.

The proposal prompted objections from Sixth Street-area residents about the encroachment of the hospital into the neighborhood. The plan was modified to create an institutional zone to include both North Seventh and Sixth streets.

The institutional zone requested by the hospital would allow professional offices and other uses, but act as a buffer zone between the residential area and the health-care district. The number of permitted uses is about half of what would be allowed in the health care district.

The hospital is located in a residential zone and is a nonconforming use.

In order to make significant changes to the property, the hospital has had to go before the borough's Zoning Hearing Board for special exceptions and variances.

It did so earlier this year to get the approvals needed for a $40 million expansion.

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