GOSHEN — Goshen City Council members Tuesday gave their blessing to a planned $87 million Goshen Hospital expansion project.
During their meeting, council members approved on both first and second reading a request by Goshen Health officials for various rezoning, major change and site plan approvals needed as part of a planned multi-phase expansion project at the existing hospital campus along South Main Street and High Park Drive.
Of the multiple approvals sought by the hospital’s leadership, the primary requests included: the rezoning of 11 surrounding parcels from residential to commercial; passage of a Planned Unit Development major change combining the existing Main Campus PUD and High Park PUD, and adding all rezoned parcels and vacated right of way to the combined Goshen Hospital PUD; and the granting of preliminary site plan approval for the overall project.
Tuesday’s meeting was the second time the hospital request had come before the council in as many months.
Council members had originally been asked to vote on the request during their Oct. 30 meeting, though it was ultimately decided to table the request until Tuesday’s meeting in order to allow more time for discussion about the proposal.
Central to the council’s decision to delay was the fact that the project, formally announced back in early October, has received some significant pushback from nearby residential property owners who say they oppose the continued expansion of the hospital property into their neighborhood.
Several of those residents chose to speak against the proposal Tuesday, with the primary issues expressed relating to the hospital’s encroachment into the nearby residential area, be it through ongoing expansion of the primary hospital complex itself, or the purchase of neighborhood homes that are then either left vacant, designated for demolition or targeted for other hospital-related uses.
The destruction of homes and neighborhood greenspace in order to add additional parking for the hospital was of particular concern for many who spoke Tuesday, with many suggesting that construction of a parking garage, rather than continued parking lot expansion, may be the better option.
On the flip side, a large number of attendees, many who are employed by the hospital, voiced their own concerns about the need for additional parking at the hospital. Of those who spoke in favor of the request, most referenced concern for safety in supporting the plan, as many are currently required to park far away and cross Ind. 15 to get to the hospital campus, often in dark conditions.
SPIRIT OF COMPROMISE
In an effort to find a compromise between the needs of the hospital and the needs of the neighborhood residents, Councilman Adam Scharf put forward an amendment to the overall request that would be passed in a vote of 6-1 in favor.
The amendment called for designating a number of the residential properties that had originally been designated for rezoning to commercial to instead remain residential. They included: 1701 S. Main St.; 102 Gra-Roy Drive; 1700 Lawndale Place; 1713 Woodward Place; 401 Marilyn Ave.; 200 Westwood Road; and 202 Westwood Road with the adjacent parcel immediately to the west. The amendment also stipulates that the vacant parcel at 1701 Lawndale Place shall be removed from the Goshen Hospital PUD and remain residentially zoned.
Also included in the approved amendment was the stipulation that a zoning line shall be established between the southwest corner of the lot at 1701 Lawndale Place and the southwest corner of the lot at 1701 S. Main St.. Additional surface parking would then be permitted on the side of the established zoning line adjacent to the existing surface parking lot. No additional surface parking would then be permitted on the Gra-Roy side of the zoning line.
The amendment also included a requirement that the existing residential structure at 1700 Lawndale Place shall not be demolished and shall be maintained with a residential use, though the requirement does not preclude possible future replacement of the current residential home with another residential home, similar in character and scale, and placed on the same general site in accordance with relevant frontage and orientation standards.
Rounding out the approved amendment was a section stating that a setback of 50 feet, including a visual barrier consistent with the standards elsewhere in the ordinance, shall be provided between the east lot lines of the residences on Woodward Place south of Westwood Road and any new surface parking to the east of those residences.
Voting in favor of the ordinance were council members Scharf, Julia King, Jim McKee, Doug Nisley, Mike Orgill and Brett Weddell. Councilwoman Julia Gautsche was the sole “No” vote.
With the amendment approved, the council then moved on for a vote on the final ordinance as amended, passing the ordinance on both first and second reading in votes of 5-2 in favor.
Voting for the ordinance’s passage were council members Gautsche, McKee, Nisley, Scharf and Weddell. King and Orgill voted in opposition.
Given the passionate voices raised on both sides of the issue Tuesday, Goshen Mayor Jeremy Stutsman prior to the final vote encouraged members of the Goshen Health team to meet with him and other members of the council and city staff in the coming weeks to brainstorm on possible future parking solutions that may better suit all parties involved, to which the Goshen Health team agreed.
In addition, Stutsman noted that, at least during his tenure as mayor, he would hope that Tuesday’s action would serve as the last effort by the hospital to expand into the surrounding neighborhood, with future expansion efforts focused more on growing upward — such as with a parking garage or structure — rather than outward.
“While I’m in office, it’s my intent to work as much as possible with the hospital to make sure that this footprint does not change from here on out, that we do make this the line drawn,” Stutsman said. “It would be my intent that this be the last expansion, and that we look seriously and plan for in the future parking structures if those are needed. I do think with a neighborhood as old as this one, and a neighborhood as strong as this one, and as beautiful as this one ... we need to do what we can to continue protecting them, and I’m hopeful this is the last creep here.”
As described by the hospital, the proposed expansion plan includes six primary phases to be conducted over several years.
Phase 1, considered the core of the plan, involves tearing down the original 1954 hospital located on the northwest corner of the existing hospital complex and replacing it with a four-story, with 106 private rooms, which in turn will replace the bulk of the in-patient room facilities at the hospital.
Construction on the tower is proposed to begin in September of 2019 and conclude in the third quarter of 2021.
Phase 2 of the proposed project will include construction of a new three-bay loading dock that is currently underway and set for completion in September of 2019.
For Phase 3, the plan is to either renovate or replace the existing building at 1701 S. Main St. and convert it into the new home of the Goshen Health Foundation, with parking provided in the hospital parking lot. Construction is set to begin in December of this year and conclude in May of 2019.
This phase will also include renovation of the property at 102 Gra-Roy Drive to serve as a residence for medical students, with parking provided for residents on the existing lot. Construction is underway and set to conclude in April of 2019.
Rounding out Phase 3 will be demolition and removal of the existing building at 1721 High Park Ave. and conversion of that property into additional parking for the hospital. The High Park demolition is set to begin in the third quarter of 2021 and conclude in the second quarter of 2022.
For Phase 4, the existing building at 200 Westwood Ave. will be renovated and converted into a physician on-call facility. The existing structures at 112, 114 and 202 Westwood Ave. will then be removed and replaced with additional hospital parking. Work on the 200 Westwood Ave. renovation is ongoing and set to conclude in April of 2019, while work on the parking lot expansion is set to begin in March of 2019 and conclude in May of 2019.
Phase 5 will involve removing the existing structure at 401 Marilyn Ave. and replacing it with a relocated and expanded Care House. Work on Phase 5 is slated to begin in December and conclude in May of 2019.
Finishing out the proposed expansion project will be Phase 6, which involves renovating the existing building at 1713 Woodward Place for use as temporary hospital offices during construction. Use of the temporary offices is slated to begin in December of this year and conclude in July of 2022.
In addition to the six phases outlined in the plan, a number of related projects are also currently underway at the hospital. Those include renovation of existing patient rooms in other parts of the hospital, expansion of the hospital’s pharmacy department and renovation of the Circle of Caring Birthplace.