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Zoning appeals board clarifies decision on hospital variance

September 20, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Prompted by a circuit judge's uncertainty, the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals met Tuesday to discuss the uniqueness of a proposed new Washington County Hospital.

For about 20 minutes, board members listed what they consider unique aspects of the project, including proximity to major roads, topography and access to public water and sewer service.

The board's clarification session was held to satisfy a question Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III raised last month in upholding two zoning variances.

In December 2005, the zoning board approved the variances, which would aid a plan to build a new Washington County Hospital on Robinwood Drive. The hospital would move from its current home on East Antietam Street.

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

A citizens' group called Citizens for Responsible Health Care formally challenged the variances.

Boone heard the group's challenge in court in July, then issued an opinion in August upholding the variances - on three of four points.

On the last point, Boone ordered the board to explain itself better.

"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.

Board Chairman Spence Perry said Tuesday that the board's task is "looking at the facts that we have heard through a somewhat different lens."

Perry and board members Tom Oyster, Bert Iseminger Jr. and David Williams also mentioned population, housing density, vegetation, public safety and the shape of the parcel as unique qualities. They explained their thoughts, as well.

Board attorney Kirk Downey took notes and will draft the comments into a finding that he'll send to the circuit court.

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