At their June 24, 2008 meeting the
Albemarle County Planning Commission
will review a preliminary site plan for UVA’s proposed
Long Term Acute Care Hospital (LTACH)
. The site plan requires both a critical slopes waiver and a review of compliance with the Albemarle County Comprehensive. County staff has recommended approval of the site plan.
The proposed hospital would house patients with severe illnesses or multiple organ failures who need care for periods longer than 25 days. These patients are currently seen in the main medical center, where beds and space are at a premium, and moving them would increase the level of care for all patients, explained Edward Howell, Vice President and CEO of the UVA Medical Center at a
March 4, 2008 community briefing
. The new facility would also bring approximately 200 additional jobs to the area.
There are two potential obstacles facing approval of the site plan—critical slopes and its location in the rural area on Route 250 West near Northridge. Critical slope regulations normally protect these areas from development. There is, however, a provision in the ordinance that recommends critical slope waivers be granted in situations where such a waiver “would serve a public purpose of greater import than would be served” by enforcing the regulation, and staff wrote that “it can be reasonably said that the construction of an acute care hospital” would fit that description.
The second challenge is the classification of the area as “rural area” in the County’s comprehensive plan. However, according to the staff report the surrounding properties, with the same rural designation, are currently being used for an office building, a car dealership, a warehouse and residential properties. The land to be used for the hospital has existing zoning as commercial.
UVA had originally planned to break ground on the 50 bed facility by the beginning of this month. If the Commission follows the staff’s recommendation and approves the plan, UVA hopes to complete the project within 18 months of starting construction.