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Zone designations near hospital OK'd

January 06, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Following a public hearing that lasted more than two hours, the Chambersburg Borough Council on Monday night approved an ordinance creating two new zones for Chambersburg Hospital and an adjacent neighborhood.

The council voted 7-3 to approve a Health Care Service District from North Coldbrook Avenue to the east side of North Seventh Street and a Health Institution District from the west side of North Seventh Street to the east side of North Sixth Street.

"I feel like I am attending the requiem for a neighborhood," North Sixth Street resident Pam Bartl said during the public hearing that preceded the vote. "That neighborhood will be gone in five or 10 years."

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The ordinances, drawn up by the hospital, create the health-care service district in the area occupied mostly by the hospital's main campus. The health-institution district was suggested as a buffer zone with fewer permitted uses than the hospital property.

The hospital was located in a low-density residential zone and was a nonconforming use. In June, the hospital had to go to the zoning hearing board for special exceptions and a variance it wanted for proposed expansions totaling $40 million.

Counsel for the hospital, Bryan Salzmann, said the idea of creating a health-institution zone was the result of meetings with residents living around the hospital property.

Carl Miller, another North Sixth Street resident, said he came up with the idea as a buffer zone between the hospital and Sixth Street. The hospital already owns most of the properties on North Seventh Street and a previous rezoning plan would have allowed the health-care service district to extend to the alley between Sixth and Seventh streets.

"Those permitted uses they had were not acceptable to me in my back yard," Miller said.

Although he spoke in favor of the rezoning, Miller also convinced the council to add language banning incinerators in either zone, as well as any animal research facilities.

The health-care service district ordinance listed more than two dozen permitted uses, including outpatient clinics, professional and medical offices, diagnostic medical labs, and education and training centers.

Many of the same facilities are permitted in the health-institution zone, although Salzmann said such things as helipads or ambulance squads would not be allowed there to minimize disruption to residents.

Salzmann countered arguments that the rezoning would lower property values, saying a property value survey by the hospital showed values on surrounding properties had risen an average of 41 percent between 1996 and 2002.

"The hospital cannot take away those people's properties within the district by eminent domain," Salzmann said, addressing another concern.

He said the hospital will not have "carte blanche" within the district to do as it pleases, and must still obey all other borough subdivision and land development requirements.

Bartl said parking was a major concern for her, as expansion of the hospital will require additional parking, already in short supply.

"None of you live on Sixth Street. I live on Sixth Street," her husband, William Batts, told the council and representatives from the hospital. He said the hospital had more resources to influence the council than the residents.

"You own your property and no one can force you to sell it," Council President William McLaughlin said to assertions that the expansion of the hospital would force people to move.

Councilman John Redding said compromise and negotiation between the hospital and neighborhood were tremendous and said he would vote for the "greater good of the community."

"We weren't voting against the hospital tonight," Bigler said. "We were voting for the neighbors."

Both said they would have wanted to see greater assurances for the residents before they voted for the rezoning.

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