Residents worried about new med facility

Published 10:27 am Monday, September 20, 2010

Planning commission yet to vote on zoning change

Before the Ironton Planning Commission recommends rezoning the area around a proposed new medical campus, its members want to have a few concerns addressed.

That was the consensus at a public hearing Thursday of the commission to discuss rezoning the area as a health service district.

The property is currently zoned as business and residential. While the project could continue in the business zone, the health service district is more appropriate for the campus because it would restrict the types of business that could locate there, Ralph Kline, assistant director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, explained.

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“I don’t feel comfortable voting on it,” Mayor Rich Blankenship said. “Before I vote favorably I want to make sure I’m comfortable with it.”

Fewer than ten residents came to voice concerns over the 46,000 square foot St. Mary’s Medical Campus that will be built near the intersection of U.S. 52 and State Route 141 in Ironton.

Kline presented the plans for the medical campus, which is scheduled for construction this fall.

The campus will have a 24-hour emergency department that will transport patients to hospitals if needed.

Among those who are concerned with the project is Annis Payton and her son, Jon. Payton lives on Woodland Drive near what would be the ambulance entrance of the medical campus. Two other houses near Payton are vacant.

The county, which currently owns the property for the project, has acquired about nine properties for the project, but has not offered to purchase Payton’s.

Payton is concerned about the noise, traffic and security concerns that the campus may bring.

“It’s not that I want to sell it but I don’t want to be in that mess either,” she said.

Another resident, who asked not to be named, is also concerned with the service and ambulance entrance plans for the medical campus. Current plans indicate that the ambulances will enter on Ora Richey Road, which is one lane. The road is too narrow and she is worried that ambulances will run their vehicles off the road, she said.

The city and St. Mary’s are discussing the possibility of widening the road and other steps that could be taken to minimize the impact. Kline said Monday morning.

Only the property for the project is being considered for the rezoning.

“This project is about serving the community so St. Mary’s certainly doesn’t do anything to do that would have a negative impact on the neighborhood,” St. Mary’s Medical Center Spokesman Doug Korstanje said. “We are going to do everything possible to be good neighbors and address every concern.”

The Ironton City Council has recently passed an ordinance authorizing the redistricting but the mayor has not signed it pending the commission’s decision.

Blankenship said he plans to take the concerns back to the county, CAO and St. Mary’s to have them addressed.