Court hears challenge to hospital plan

July 15, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ


A challenge to zoning variances for a proposed new hospital was argued Friday in Washington County Circuit Court.

At the end of the hearing, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III said he hoped to issue an opinion within 30 days or so.

Citizens for Responsible Health Care, a group of residents, is formally protesting the variances, which the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals approved in December 2005.

The group appealed the approvals to Washington County Circuit Court in January.

One variance allows a new hospital to be connected to the existing Robinwood Medical Center. The other lets helicopters and ambulance serve the new hospital, and allows a building to be taller than what the county's zoning ordinance permits.


William C. Wantz, the citizens' group's attorney, said in court Friday that when the zoning board approved a special exception so the medical center could be built in 1991, it prohibited a future acute-care facility, such as a hospital, at the site.

Altering or removing conditions imposed at the time - including a helicopter ban - wouldn't be "fair, just and equitable" to people who live nearby, Wantz said.

William Chen, representing the entities that received zoning variances for the proposed new hospital, disagreed.

Chen said there is nothing wrong with "honorably subsequently" asking to change the conditions.

"That is permissible," he said. "That's why we have a regulatory process."

The Robinwood area was planned and developed as a low-density residential neighborhood, so a hospital would be a bad fit and would worsen traffic, Wantz said.

But, Chen said, enough evidence was collected as part of the zoning variance review to conclude that the project is compatible with the area.

The board of zoning appeals approved the two variances on Dec. 7, 2005. Each vote was 4-1.

In March, Citizens for Responsible Health Care appealed the Washington County Planning Commission's approval of a site plan for a Robinwood Drive hospital of about 500,000 square feet.

The county's zoning board of appeals voted 5-0 in April to uphold the site-plan approval.

Know more in 30 seconds

The issue: A citizens' group has challenged a proposed Washington County Hospital move from East Antietam Street in Hagerstown to Robinwood Drive. The group, known as Citizens for Responsible Health Care, appealed a decision by the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals, which approved two variances for the project in December 2005.

What's new: Attorneys on both sides argued the case Friday in Washington County Circuit Court.

What's next:Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III said on Friday that he hopes to issue an opinion in the next 30 days or so.

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