For the week of July 1 thru July 7, 1998  

Moses pushes for a rezone of McHanville area


By AMY SPINDLER
Express Staff Writer

1mchos.gif (7105 bytes)Medical center chief Jon Moses urged Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission members to rezone the McHanville area, those building in the background, to allow medical office buildings and support services along the fringe of its new hospital site. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Wood River Medical Center chief Jon Moses asked the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the site of its future hospital site and the surrounding McHanville area to allow medical office buildings to be built in the future.

Moses’ request regarding the site in Ketchum’s zone of impact came during a P&Z workshop on the comprehensive plan last Wednesday.

The new hospital is slated to be built in the county at Cold Springs, south of Ketchum, and completed in the fall of 2000 by St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center as part of its takeover of WRMC operations. Because it is within Ketchum’s zone of impact, the city will provide input throughout the rezone process.

"We are building this hospital not just for today, but to effectively meet the needs of our community over the next 100 years," Moses said. "It needs to stand the test of time."

Standing the test of time means having the ability to expand.

Moses said the ability to build an adjacent medical office building in the McHanville area is critical for several reasons. First, St. Luke’s can create one campus where patients will have convenient access to physician offices and hospital services; second, key physicians will be close if needed during a medical emergency in the hospital; and third, the hospital’s financial viability would be enhanced.

"This arrangement supports a critical outpatient revenue stream for hospitals across the country, which is a primary reason most hospitals have an adjacent medical office building," he said.

Moses said construction of a medical office building on the hospital site is impossible because of space and the current zoning. St. Luke’s conceptual plan is to lease space within the hospital to physicians at first, then, as the hospital grows, physicians would move to an adjacent medical office building.

County planning administrator Deborah Vignes, who is working full time on the hospital rezone process, said the 100-year projection caught her by surprise.

"It’s always been a 20- or 30-year projection and how we’re going to accommodate those needs on the hospital site," she said after the meeting.

Instead of drafting a rezone, which is a time-consuming and complex process, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission drafted a text amendment to zoning at the hospital site area earlier this month. Text governing what’s allowed in the recreational development zone that regulates the site was changed to include definitions of "extended care facility," "hospital," and "public facility." Blaine County Commissioners will approve or deny those changes July 6.

"We provided a mechanism for the hospital to move forward," said Vignes of the amendment. "It was very apparent that there was great difficulty for the hospital to meet its timeline with the zoning issues at hand. This is the quickest way to move forward."

She said county planners are looking at a similar developed area in Boise specially zoned as a health care service district that lists a myriad of uses allowed in the area. Vignes is reviewing the zone as guidance.

"There’s some sense in not recreating the wheel; what works well somewhere else could work here," she said.

She also forecast that the McHanville area may be rezoned to provide for high-density housing.

Vignes said there are many issues involved with a rezone of the McHanville area.

"A rezone needs to be in compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan, which states that commercial development should take place in the cities’ core," said Vignes.

In some instances it may be difficult to decipher what is a commercial use, which is prohibited.

"We look at a pharmacy or an optometrist, and grapple with when something stops being a public facility and moves into a commercial venture," Vignes said.

At the meeting Moses said he thinks it’s in the best interest to not have a "hodgepodge of retail" in the McHanville area, but told the Ketchum P&Z that a medical office building was consistent with a hospital use.

McHanville resident John McDonald said he hoped a rezone could be beneficial to the whole community, and that a rezone would accommodate McHanville neighbors. He said his primary concern was traffic.

"Everyone is standing with their binoculars, seeing what will happen," said Vignes.

For a better view, a public meeting is planned for July 20 at which hospital officials will present a site development plan, and St. Luke’s is expected to present building plans with an application for a conditional use permit to the county P&Z in late summer or early fall.

 

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