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Snook willing to help hospital

July 21, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN

gregs@herald-mail.com

The president of the Washington County Commissioners said Wednesday he is willing to work to help Washington County Hospital move.

Hagerstown city officials said Tuesday they would not move forward on the project without assistance from county and state political leaders.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said Wednesday he was not surprised by the Hagerstown City Council's decision, although it gives his fellow commissioners clarity on what next to expect.

"We knew it would be a difficult decision for the city," Snook said.

The council on Tuesday verbally agreed to take a stance on the hospital issue, saying they do not have any available sewer capacity to issue for the hospital, and the hospital should begin the zoning process under county government, not city government as hospital officials had hoped.

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The council also said it is willing to work to find ways to provide sewer capacity under the state restrictions, but not without political support from the commissioners or the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly.

Snook said he is willing to work on the sewer capacity question.

On the project itself, Snook said, "It's a long time coming here, and unfortunately, the route that it's taken has been delayed for various reasons. ... We need to get on with it."

Snook said the City Council's decision now places a decision on Washington County Hospital administrators to choose how to proceed with land-use questions.

Snook said there are two basic options. Hospital officials can request to change the zoning on the land where the hospital would go, which would have to go before commissioners.

Officials also can choose to request a special exception from the land-use designation, which would go through the county's zoning appeals board. This is the option hospital officials have previously said they preferred.

"The zoning issue is a huge issue. It's not a given," Snook said.

The city is limited under a legally-binding agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment to how much new growth can be added to the city's sewer system, limiting the number of new buildings that can be built in and around city limits.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, chairman of the county delegation to the General Assembly, said Tuesday he would offer his help and consult with his fellow delegation members.

Marina Shannon, a spokeswoman for Washington County Hospital, said officials wouldn't comment until having heard from city officials.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said Wednesday a letter would be drafted and likely would be approved by the council next Tuesday.

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