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Lawyer, planners spar over hospital request

August 14, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A request from Waynesboro Hospital met the ire of the borough planning commission Monday, not because of the request's merit, but because of its presentation.

Representatives of the hospital asked the Waynesboro Planning Commission to support their desire to see a couple of alleys and portions of streets abandoned around the medical center.

The hospital is in the midst of generating plans for $13.5 million to $15.5 million worth of expansion.

"The hospital is asking the borough to vacate Enterprise Avenue and to close portions of Prospect Avenue," said Jon Fleagle, a member of the planning commission.

The planning commission said the request would be hard to grant that night, considering the hospital did not present plans for the site.

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"I don't think we'd entertain a request like this from a land developer," said Stephen Monn, a planning commission member.

An exception to proceed without plans shouldn't be made for the hospital, he said.

"I disagree. We are a hospital. We are a really important part of this community," said attorney Bill Dick, who was presenting the idea on behalf of the hospital.

Dick argued that the hospital did not want to spend money to have an architect create detailed plans if the borough had no intention of abandoning the roads.

"We have to know what we have to work with to move forward," Dick said. "Our goal is that the planning commission and borough say, 'We want to support the hospital in any way possible.'"

Monn - who said he took offense to the argument that it's about support - said Pennsylvania's Municipalities Planning Code doesn't treat a hospital differently than any other entity.

"I definitely think that if none of this (road abandonment) occurred, we'd have to (tell) the hospital it needs to rethink what it's doing. You saw what happened in Hagerstown," Dick said.

"If the borough isn't interested in vacating the streets, the hospital isn't interested in spending another penny," he said later.

The hospital owns nearly every property affected by the closures, and the other property owner affected has no objections, Dick said.

"All I'm asking is, 'Why don't you show what you're planning to do?'" Monn asked.

The borough needs to know exactly which portions of thoroughfares are necessary to abandon, since utility lines are buried there, Fleagle said.

"I can't make a recommendation to abandon those streets because there are water lines and sewer lines in there," Fleagle said, explaining he couldn't be sure of the affected area without plans.

The Waynesboro Borough Authority, which manages those lines, will want to see plans at its next meeting, too, Fleagle said.

Closing the thoroughfares could affect the ways that residents and emergency vehicles access houses nearby, Monn said. Traffic congestion problems could be created, especially during shift changes, he said.

The hospital asked to close Prospect and Enterprise avenues and two alleys because whatever isn't used for the addition will be made into parking, said Jeff Carty, the hospital's vice president of finance.

"It's going to take everything we own to do this project," Carty said.

The expansion will be on the east side of the building because it's already 70 years newer than the original section, which opened in 1922, according to Ken Shur, chief operating officer of Waynesboro Hospital.

Monn questioned whether the hospital will expand beyond the land recently prepared for expansion when houses were demolished.

"We think we have sufficient real estate to work with," Shur said.

Hospital officials said an architect has presented four preliminary plans. They were asked to return with those as sketch plans.

"Maybe it's the engineer in me, but I'd like to know how this is going to play out. Generally, I don't have a problem with it. If the hospital expands out there, great," Fleagle said.

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