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City won't support hospital without zoning exception

July 14, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown city officials said Tuesday that they will not support a new Washington County Hospital if hospital officials don't first gain approval from county officials for a special exception to the zoning rules on their land.

Zoning rules define how property owners can use their land - commercially or residentially - and how heavy that impact is.

"We said all along, they've got to get the zoning first," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday after the council's meeting.

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But the hospital's parent organization - Washington County Health System - is not in agreement with the city, James Hamill, the health system's president and chief executive officer, said Tuesday night.

The land where the health system plans to build the new hospital is owned by the county and zoned for residential use. However, if the hospital successfully applies for an exception to the zoning rules, the hospital would be allowed.

Hamill said the city is asking to annex the land where the hospital will be built, meaning it would be incorporated into the city limits. He said the health system supports that request.

Hamill said he's under the impression that gaining the zoning exception first from the county would be duplicating paperwork because those processes would have to take place again with the city during the annexation process.

Hamill said the city is asking the health system to gain the exception first because "it quite frankly gives the mayor and City Council cover."

Asked about the zoning issue after the meeting, Breichner said if hospital officials first gained zoning approval, it would be incorporated into the annexation agreement.

"If Jim Hamill had this problem ... why didn't he talk to us about it?" Breichner said.

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