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Zoning variances for hospital upheld

October 18, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The last piece of a legal challenge to a proposed new Washington County Hospital was settled Monday when a judge entirely affirmed two zoning variances for the project.

In August, Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III affirmed the variances on three of four counts, but sent the matter back to the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals for clarification.

On Monday, Boone upheld the fourth aspect, completing his decision.

Told of the decision by The Herald-Mail, Charles B. Hongell, one of five remaining appellants, said he was "disappointed."

He said he'd ask the other appellants - Gordon A. Bartels, Janet E. Bartels, Sally R. Hatch and Robert C. Hatch - if they wanted to appeal the ruling. Legal costs would be an important factor, he said.

James Hamill, the president and chief executive officer of Washington County Health System, the hospital's parent organization, said he was "delighted" by the decision.

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Hamill said the appeal didn't stop the plan to move Washington County Hospital from East Antietam Street in Hagerstown to Robinwood Drive, but "it slowed things down."

Washington County Planning Director Michael Thompson said the county is waiting for different agencies to review and approve the site plan.

The Maryland State Highway Administration, the City of Hagerstown, local fire departments and others typically review plans and submit their concerns and approvals to the Planning Department.

Once those approvals are in, he said, staff members would sign off on the plan, allowing the hospital to be built.

Thompson said he didn't know when the approvals from the agencies would be done. He didn't anticipate the county taking long to let the plan proceed once the reviews are finished.

The county's planning commission has approved the site plan, contingent upon approvals from the agencies.

Hamill said the state will review the project costs and financing.

A general construction contract is expected to be awarded by the end of the year, he said. Work could begin in early 2007.

The project would take about 30 months, according to Hamill.

Earlier this month, Boone approved a motion by Ronald L. Horn, Gary C. Miller and J. Michael Nye to be removed from the court case. They were among the original appellants, who called themselves Citizens for Responsible Health Care.

Staff writer Tara Reilly contributed to this story.

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