Havre de Grace medical campus concept plan

The final concept plan for Upper Chesapeake Health's proposed hospital and surrounding medical office complex was approved by the Havre de Grace Planning Commission Monday night. (Bryna Zumer, Record staff / September 25, 2012)

The Havre de Grace Planning Commission recommended approval of the concept plan for the proposed Upper Chesapeake mixed-use hospital and medical office campus with little debate and few public complaints Monday night.

The 96-acre project would be built at Barker Lane and Bulle Rock Parkway, near the Route 155 interchange with I-95.

The first construction phase, set for 2016, would include the new 250,000-square-foot Upper Chesapeake hospital with an initial 108 beds, an 80,000-square-foot retail and office building and a 14,000-square-foot pharmacy.

Three more phases, set for 2019 through 2025, would add a total of 20 buildings, including a 110-room hotel.

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About 10 members of the public attended the planning commission's meeting Monday at city hall.

The planning department has been reviewing a traffic study that has been prepared for the project and incorporates Bulle Rock Parkway and Route 155. A forest stand delineation has also been approved for the site, while a forest conservation plan is in development, city planners said.

Chairman calls plan 'incomplete'

Planning Commission Chairman Curtis Coon was alone in voting against the concept plan because he said the submitted proposal is incomplete.

Coon grilled Upper Chesapeake's representatives on their plans to flesh out details of the project, while the developers tried to reassure the commission they were not trying to leave anything out.

"I love this whole idea of a new hospital personally, but I have my duty here," Coon said, questioning the omission of items the city apparently requires in concept plans, such as amenities like street lighting, water features or pedestrian furniture in pedestrian areas.

"It makes more sense to me that you would reassure the public that any omission from the concept plan that for reasons of practicality is omitted from the concept plan be stated," he explained.

The other commission members did not seem to have any concerns. Member Robin Shane originally made a motion to require Upper Chesapeake to list the items they were omitting from the concept plan, but then she reconsidered.

"A concept plan, in our experience, most concept plans do not go to this level of detail," Paul Muddiman, of Morris Ritchie Associates, the project's engineer, said.

"We know we have to comply, we want to have those amenities in the project, we're just not on the level of design to put them on the concept plan," Muddiman said.

More detailed plan coming

More details on the plan will be discussed when Upper Chesapeake presents its actual site plan in late October or early November, Dean Kaster, Upper Chesapeake senior vice president for corporate strategy and business development, said after the meeting.

The concept plan includes a number of relatively minor changes since it was last seen by the public, city deputy planning director Jay Bautz said.

The biggest change is a significant reduction in parking for the five buildings to be built in the fourth and last phase of the project.

"There was way over, an abundance of parking being created for these office buildings," Bautz said, explaining that parking was reduced by 25 to 30 percent but still meets city requirements.

"It was a stormwater management issue," Bautz added.