- Ed Richter Staff Writer
UPDATE @ 9:14 p.m.: A request by Kettering Health Network to rezone two parcels in Middletown to develop a $30 million outpatient medical facility was unanimously denied by the city planning commission on Wednesday night.
The planning commission rejected the city planning department’s recommendation to approve the request, which would enable KHN to have eight to 20 inpatient beds and offer other hospital services.
The decision followed a 90-minute public hearing that included testimony from representatives of KHN, Atrium Medical Center and Premier Health.
The case will be forwarded Middletown City Council next month to uphold or reverse the planning commission’s decision concerning the two parcels off Ohio 122 at Union Road, less than a mile from the Atrium campus.
Richard Haas, KHN senior vice president, said the organization has spent more than $4 million on the nearly 13.7-acre site to demolish a motel that was filled with asbestos.
Haas, the only person to speak in favor of the request during the public hearing, said the request would allow KHN to admit patients overnight. He also said KHN did not intend to build an entire hospital.
When asked why the request was not made in May, when the planning commission approved the preliminary and final site development plans, Haas said, “it was in the back of our minds” but as the process has evolved, KHN officials decided to seek the rezoning.
Several Atrium representatives cited the 100-year relationship with Middletown, the $300 million investment to build the hospital as well as the city’s previous plans that Atrium would anchor a high-tech and healthcare corridor along Interstate 75.
“We were concerned their plan entailed more than what they presented (in May),” said Robert Curry, an Atrium attorney.
Curry said the city’s master and comprehensive plans cited Atrium as the anchor for development and that other businesses would be diversified and complimentary to the hospital. He said KHN’s proposal would be duplicative and ignores the zoning distinctions in the city plans.
Dr. William Andrew said he was “angry” about KHN’s request because they are “someone from outside that’s coming in and hurting the institution that binds us.”
He said KHN’s request was duplicative and unnecessary and said he’d rather see that property be sold to someone else in keeping with the plan.
Andrew called this “a carefully crafted plan that was designed to inflict as much damage to Premier Health.”
David Pearce, a former Middletown hospital board member, also cited the 100-year partnership with the city and noted the board’s decision to build the new hospital in Middletown was a way to “pay forward” for the community. He said the zoning was a key pillar to that decision and now that’s coming into question.
Pearce also said a decision to approve the request would be fraught with “a number of unintended consequences.”
Michael Uhl, Atrium’s president, said Atrium gives a lot to the city in terms of contributions as well as a number of services and programs that benefit and support the community as well as bringing new partners to the city.
Planning commission member Todd Moore asked whether there was a maximum of eight beds approved for the request.
Michael Maiberger, Premier Health’s chief operating officer, said, “it would be a game-changer if overnight stays were allowed…. If that happened, we’d have to look at everything…. We don’t fear competition but when you have duplicative services, it will be hurtful.”
UPDATE @ 12:35 p.m.
Middletown city officials said Kettering Health Network they were unaware of any plans to expand a proposed 63,000 square-foot facility from a planned outpatient clinic with an emergency department, diagnostic services and offices into a full-service hospital.
“This was not in the plans that Kettering had shared with us initially,” said Jennifer Ekey, city economic development director. “Our first knowledge was when they made the application.”
Kettering representatives filed the rezoning request on Aug. 18 and the city received a letter dated Aug. 23 from Richard Haas, KHN senior vice president, informing them of their plans concerning the rezoning, according to city planning department records.
Ekey did not think KHN was adding more employees as the structure remains the same as approved before.
She said Atrium was notified as were the other property owners in the area through the city’s normal notification process.
UPDATE (Sept. 13):
Atrium Medical Center officials will be attending tonight’s Middletown Planning Commission meeting to share their concerns about a proposed project by Kettering Health Network, according to an Atrium spokesperson.
Michael Uhl, president of Atrium Medical Center, expressed concerns about Kettering Health Network’s rezoning request to build a full hospital in Middletown, about one mile from Atrium.
“… we share the same concerns of many others in the community regarding the impact overbuilding may have on rising health care costs,” Uhl said in a statement.
When the planning commission approved variances for Kettering Health Network’s first plans in May, City Planner Ashley Combs said the Law Department had no objections to the project.
Combs said that the city worked closely with Kettering Health Network throughout the process.
“Staff believes this project will be a great addition to the East End,” Combs said in May.
Kettering Middletown’s preliminary and final development plans as approved in May were expected to create 110 new jobs, including registered nurses, respiratory therapists, imaging and lab technicians and support staff.
FIRST REPORT (SEPT. 12)
Kettering Health Network wants to rezone its site in Middletown to allow for a full-service hospital, this news outlet has learned.
The rezoning would allow Kettering Health Network to provide overnight stays for patients and other hospital-based services, according to the request.
Middletown Planning Commission will consider the request at its meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Middletown City Building.
Kettering Health Network received approval May 10 from the Middletown Planning Commission to build a $30 million facility that included only an emergency department, outpatient clinic, and medical offices at the 3400 block of Union Road, south of Ohio 122 and just off the Interstate 75 interchange.
The Middletown facility will be the ninth hospital in the Kettering Health Network system, which also includes Fort Hamilton Hospital in Butler County, as well as an emergency center in Franklin, Kettering College and more than 120 outpatient facilities in southwest Ohio.
The new Kettering Health Network facility is planned less than one mile south of Atrium Medical Center, a hospital operated by Premier Health.