St. Lukes sign slips through loophole
P&Z commissioner: Weve got to be more careful
St. Lukes Wood River Medical Center "is not listening to
people in the county. Theyre listening to their donors and to St. Lukes in
Tom Bowman, P&Z commission chairman
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County denied the sign one month ago, but St. Lukes Wood
River Medical Center planners say they plan to build a 9-by 14-foot brick-and-wood
hospital entry marker adjacent to Highway 75 anyway.
St. Lukes will likely get to build its monument sign due to a
loophole in a seven-page document the county planning and zoning commission drafted during
several public hearings last month.
The document states St. Lukes can build its 154-square-foot monument
only if the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) refuses to install international blue
"H" signs within half a mile north and south of the hospital and suspended from
the traffic signal mast arm at the hospitals south entrance.
P&Z commissioners stated they prefer traditional "H" signs
to guide hospital visitors along Highway 75 to the hospitals entrance because the
small, blue signs are less visually intrusive than what St. Lukes had planned.
But in a Sept. 8 letter to P&Z administrator Deborah Vignes, the ITD
stated it will not install an "H" sign from the mast arm because it is not
ITD district traffic engineer Bruce Christensen stated that the department
had visited the site and consulted manuals to reach its decision.
Last Thursday, P&Z commissioners admitted they had made a mistake by
allowing the loophole and considered reopening the public hearing process to fix the
problem. But they decided to let the loophole stand as it is because of potential legal
problems that could arise from revisiting the issue.
"Weve got to be more careful," lamented commissioner
Theresa Comber, who decided recently to resign from the commission.
Commissioner Joel Graff, who often votes in favor of St. Lukes
during public hearings, told commissioners that they have to let their original decision
"Now youre saying youre not going to accept what you
accepted," he admonished them.
Administrator Vignes said Monday she plans to talk to ITD officials to try
to get them to change their minds about installing the needed blue "H" signs.
Meanwhile, St. Lukes is moving forward with plans for building its
Last month, St. Lukes Wood River Medical Center CEO Jon Moses
instructed the Idaho Mountain Express that he and hospital officials would only
respond to written questions from the paper due to hospital officials time pressures
opening the new hospital and because he was concerned about the papers accuracy.
But Moses did not respond to an e-mail message from the
paper on Monday that asked whether the hospital would alter its sign in light of county
planners comments about it.
On Monday, St. Lukes planner John Gaeddert asked the county board of
commissioners for approval of an encroachment permit that would allow the monument sign to
exist in the public right-of-way adjacent to Highway 75. Commissioners Len Harlig, Mary
Ann Mix and Dennis Wright unanimously approved the request.
"We still hope to build [the sign] this year," Gaeddert said.
Responding to St. Lukes plans to build the monument, commission
chairman Tom Bowman said in a telephone interview Monday that St. Lukes is not
sensitive to county residents who, he says, dont want to see proliferating signs
along the highway.
St. Lukes Wood River Medical Center "is not listening to people
in the county," he said. "Theyre listening to their donors and to St.
Lukes in Boise."
But despite the P&Zs intentions to prevent the monument,
Commissioner Harlig said he voted in favor of the encroachment permit Monday because he
wanted to eliminate the possibility of St. Lukes having to return to the board for
the permit if P&Z fails to get blue "H"s installed.
"I dont see why we should make it any more difficult than
necessary for people than it already is," he said.
St. Lukes brick-and-wood monument sign was one of two signs the
P&Z rejected in St. Lukes proposed package of 10 signs last month. The P&Z
commissioners rejected it because county zoning rules only allow one 20-square-foot
directional sign and one identification sign.
The P&Z had already granted St. Lukes a 154-square-foot
identification sign at the hospitals northern entrance.
In addition to the monument, the hospital will feature a 60-square-foot
cross logo mounted 40 feet high on the buildings east-facing tower wall, the
154-square-foot monument at the northern entrance and six on-campus directional monuments
and wall-mounted signs that will be lit from behind with neon.
On Monday, St. Lukes and the board of county commissioners reviewed
a task list of items that must be completed before the hospital can open its doors to the
public in November. Completion of the signs was not a condition of occupancy, according to