Worcester Approves New Health Care Zoning District

SNOW HILL – Worcester County officials approved a new floating zoning district designed to give more flexibility to the developers of health care facilities.

The Worcester County Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve legislation to create a floating zoning district known as a health care planned unit development (HCPUD). The HCPUD designation, according to attorney Mark Cropper, will allow greater flexibility in the design of a medical service campus by permitting, among other things, the consolidation of the square footage of buildings as a direct result of consolidating multiple parcels.

Cropper submitted the legislation at the request of Palmer Gillis, developer behind the Delmarva Health Pavilion Ocean Pines. Gillis has already built two 20,000-square-foot buildings on the site and says it will eventually house 100,000 square feet of medical offices. Under the property’s existing zoning, Gillis is not permitted to construct any buildings larger than 20,000 square feet. He said that rather than erect five 20,000 square foot buildings, he wanted to be able to incorporate a larger building, which could house a variety of services, into the project. He told the commissioners doing so would meet the changing demands of modern day health services.

“As the delivery of health care has changed, the comingling of practices makes it easier for the patient,” he said. “It makes the delivery of health care more efficient.”

He said other medical projects he’d done had benefitted from larger buildings that housed multiple services. Along with increased convenience for patients, he said they’d been better able to recruit medical professionals.

Chris Hall, vice president of strategy and business development at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, also spoke on the importance of combining multiple health services in fewer facilities.

“It gives a chance for various providers to work together,” he said. “If they’re in disparate buildings it takes longer for care to be delivered.”

The text change approved Tuesday will only allow HCPUDs on lots at least 10 acres in size in the C-1, C-2 and C-3 districts. Developers seeking the designation will have to receive approval from the Worcester County Planning Commission.

“This simply enables someone to make application before the planning commission,” Cropper said.

Cropper added, “Each and every use allowed in that new zoning classification would then be allowed.”

Adding other uses would have been more intense and more disturbing to the surrounding neighborhood than medical offices, according to Cropper.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.