Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Plans advance for new hospital - Gazette

Washington Adventist receives land-use approval for Calverton/White Oak site

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer |Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

After receiving a crucial land-use approval last week, Washington Adventist Hospital's plans for relocation in the Calverton/White Oak area of Silver Spring have moved one step closer, with post-expansion plans for the current campus in Takoma Park to be announced soon.

On Sept. 10, the Montgomery County Board of Appeals unanimously approved a special exception filed by the hospital that changed the zoning of 48.8 acres of hospital-owned land near Cherry Hill Road and Route 29, just off Plum Orchard Drive, to allow for a new modern facility.

Hospital officials now await a review of a site plan from the Montgomery County Planning Board expected this November, which would be the final land-use approval needed on a local level. The hospital would then seek state regulatory approval next year by filing a Certificate of Need with the Maryland Health Care Commission.

In August, the county hearing examiner recommended approval for the special exception; the Planning Board recommended approval earlier this year.

Washington Adventist President Jere Stocks said he has been encouraged by the planning process and discussion with the Planning Board.

"I would characterize it as a very open dialogue from how the building sits on the site to forest conservation to traffic planning and mitigation and many more," Stocks said.

The new campus is expected to provide an upgrade over Washington Adventist Hospital's 14-acre Takoma Park campus on Carroll Avenue by offering a wider range of health care services and using the latest in medical technology.

The new hospital will include a main building, an ambulatory care building and two parking structures. At least an equal number of hospital beds as the old campus – currently 294 – will be included in the new campus. All beds will be in private rooms.

Plans also include a faith center for worship, counseling and education activities, as well as 260,000 square feet of office space for health care providers and out-patient services.

Adventist will seek at least the minimum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, Stocks said. Green features include a layout of the buildings that will maximize the potential for natural light and plans to incorporate a 4-acre lake on the site with healing programs.

Coupled with the expansion at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration campus in White Oak, the new campus will increase high-paying jobs in the area, jumpstarting revitalization along Route 29 and improving property values, said Stuart Rochester, chairman of the Fairland Master Plan Committee.

"The history of east county has been a lot of housing but no high paying jobs," said Rochester, adding that besides potential traffic issues, residents of Calverton/White Oak are in full support of the new campus. "Now there is possibility, in terms of smart growth, that people will be living closer to where they work and well-paying jobs will be closer."

Rochester said the White Oak area isn't lacking in health care services but the new campus will provide a more centralized facility than Adventist's Takoma Park site.

The Takoma Park campus will still be used as a complementary facility to the new campus. After conducting 18 months of interviews with more than 200 people in the community, Adventist will reveal preliminary plans for the continued use of the Takoma Park campus Monday at a press conference.

While Stocks reserved details for the plans for the press conference, he said common themes did arise during the interview process.

"Primary care access and specialty care services is very important," he said. "That is crux of what most people want."

Takoma Park formed a Health Services Impact Committee to assess the general health care needs of the city shortly after Adventist announced its plans for a new campus in 2005. In November, the committee will complete a draft report of results from focus groups and online surveys conducted in the community, said Drew Sommers, co-chair of the committee. The report will be submitted to Takoma Park City Council, Adventist Hospital and the public.

Sommers said the committee has had a strong relationship with Adventist Hospital, but the committee is focused on health care issues beyond just the hospital's relocation.

"Many issues are tangentially related to Adventist, but they are also related to many needs that already existed before Adventist," Sommers said.

Takoma Park has also appointed a committee of 14 members, including mostly citizens and an ex officio member from Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, to discuss the use of the current campus and meet with Adventist. The committee will hold its first meeting in the coming weeks.

Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams said he hopes increased out-patient services such as wellness clinics and health clubs will be in the plans for the current campus. He said the current campus could also provide extended services for those without health insurance, lessening the burden on existing health care facilities in the area.

"I think it's an opportunity to make an expanded set of services available, rather than feeling like what we had previously went away," Williams said.

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