Hospital rezoning set for public hearing

FRONT ROYAL – Whether the future site of Warren Memorial Hospital should be rezoned from agriculture to a mixed-use campus will be subject of a public hearing later this month.

The hospital will be on a 147-acre parcel off Leach Run Parkway next to Warren County Middle School, a future 450-unit HEPTAD housing development, and commercial property. Mark Baker, Valley Health vice president of facilities management, previously said a best case scenario would see ground broken on phase one during summer 2018 and an opening in the early third quarter of 2020.

The campus will include the new hospital, two medical office buildings, parking, and a land conservation area. Phase one of construction will include the new hospital and one of the medical office buildings. The hospital and medical office building will be a combined 175,000 square feet, compared to the current hospital’s roughly 150,000 square feet.

The Town Council reviewed the rezoning application during a Monday work session. The application lists several voluntary proffers, including:

•Construction of a 200-foot right-turn lane serving the hospital’s northbound approach.

•Up to $300,000 in funding for design and construction of a signal at the hospital’s entrance within five years.

•An easement allowing for a connection with the future HEPTAD development, and construction of a commercial entrance off the proposed hospital loop road.

Town Planning Director Jeremy Camp said the proffers went through three revisions, and the Planning Commission recommended the Town Council approve the rezoning.

Councilman Eugene Tewalt said due to expected traffic, the proffers should be revised so the signal and hospital are constructed simultaneously. If not, he said the proffer should be amended so Valley Health would fund all of its construction, and not just up to $300,000.

He noted that in five years the signal’s cost could increase significantly, and the burden would fall upon taxpayers.

Camp said Tewalt’s suggestions “wouldn’t be a bad thing,” but proffers are voluntary. Baker said the hospital is “perfectly happy” to construct the signal at the same time as the hospital. Hospital officials will work with Town Manager Joe Waltz to change the proffers. Also before the public hearing, officials will hash out details involving the funding of its electric power system.

“We’re excited about the project, we’re excited about staying in Warren County and advancing this project,” Baker said

Tewalt said he would rather not schedule the public hearing until all possible issues have been solved. Mayor Hollis Tharpe said there should be sufficient time, including another work session, before the public hearing.

The public hearing is scheduled for the Town Council’s 7 p.m. March 26 meeting.