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Begin zoning process now

December 14, 2004

A citizens group and a local man have both filed to be "parties of interest" in a state agency's review of the Washington County Hospital's quest to move to the Robinwood area.

The Citizens for the Protection of Washington County and J. Michael Nye, former executive director of Community Rescue Service, have both applied for that status, which allows them to comment on the hospital's application for a new site.

In both cases, the main objection is the zoning, which would not now allow the construction of anew acute-care hospital on the site.

As we've said previously, the hospital should begin the zoning process as soon as possible. As of Monday, that hadn't happened.

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CPWC and Nye argue that the 1991 Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) decision that allowed construction of the Robinwood Medical Center prohibits facilities for ambulances or helicopters and any building higher than 35 feet.

Nye, a resident of the area, has said that he fears that local government officials will allow construction of the hospital before infrastructure problems are dealt with, which he says he fears will cause dangerous traffic gridlock and a tax increase to fix it.

The hospital's last proposal was to link its project to the Mount Aetna Farms housing development and suggest that the city provide zoning to make both possible.

But city council members have repeatedly said they won't deny county residents a voice by annexing the property until the Washington County BZA has ruled on zoning.

This is a stalemate which is unlikely to be broken unless a new council is elected May 17. By then interest rates could go up, adding millions to the project's cost.

The Herald-Mail supports the move because it will allow doctors, including on-call trauma personnel, to see private patients and still respond to emergencies. However, it's time to deal with this hurdle and begin the zoning process now.

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