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Judge affirms 3 of 4 hospital zoning rulings

August 17, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Zoning changes that would allow the construction of a new hospital on Robinwood Drive have largely been upheld by a Washington County Circuit Court judge.

In a ruling released Wednesday, Judge W. Kennedy Boone III affirmed three of four aspects of Board of Zoning Appeals decisions that had been questioned by a residents' group opposed to Washington County Hospital's planned move.

Boone ordered the board to explain within 30 days its rationale concerning height allowances for the hospital. Within 30 days of the board's submission, the court will conduct an additional hearing to address the issue, according to Boone's ruling.

J. Michael Nye, a member of Citizens for Responsible Health Care, which objected to variances approved by the zoning board, vowed Wednesday the residents' group would continue its fight.

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"I'm disappointed that we didn't win on all of our points ... Although we always anticipated that it's going to wind up going to the Court of Special Appeals," he said.

Maureen Theriault, Washington County Hospital spokeswoman, said Wednesday that hospital administrators would not be able to immediately comment about the decision. Hospital attorney Mike Schaefer did not return a message left for him at his office Wednesday.

According to background information included in the case file, the zoning board claimed unique aspects of the proposed hospital site merited a special height and setback allowance.

The hospital plans call for the new building to be 80 feet tall, the case file states.

"The Board's task on remand is limited specifically to the finding of 'uniqueness' as it relates to the Board's finding of facts and decision," Boone wrote in his court order.

In the group's appeal to Circuit Court, Citizens for Responsible Health Care asked whether the zoning board had evidence to support its finding that the proposed site complied with the county's comprehensive plan. Among other questions, the group also asked whether the zoning board had evidence to support its finding that changes in circumstances had merited modifying prior zoning conditions.

Boone affirmed the zoning board had made its case.

William C. Wantz, the attorney representing Nye's group, said Wednesday he would not comment on the case because a final judgment still is pending.

The group is prepared to appeal, Nye said.

"We think our arguments are strong," he said. "We've spent a lot of time and financial resources to get us to this point, and I anticipate it's going to go on for some time more."

According to Nye, about 50 people have contributed to the fight against the hospital's move. He would not provide specifics about how much they have spent.

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