BERLIN – County officials agreed last week to amend the county’s water and sewerage plan to allow a medical center on Route 589 to move forward.
Following a public hearing Dec. 18, the Worcester County Commissioners voted to approve an amendment to the Worcester County Comprehensive Water and Sewerage Plan that will enable Atlantic General Hospital to proceed with plans for a facility on Route 589. The nearly 100,000 square-foot facility will enable the hospital to bring several of its offices together.
“It’s going to allow the Atlantic General Health System to consolidate those into one piece of property,” said Hugh Cropper, the hospital’s attorney. “It’s going to be very efficient which is going to be good for Atlantic General Hospital both in providing the services and in keeping costs down so they don’t have to lease a bunch of different offices all over the county.”
According to county staff, the proposed water and sewerage plan amendment would allow the property selected for the project to receive service in the immediate future through the Ocean Pines Sanitary Service Area. The amendment would change the property’s designation from S-6, no planned service, to S-1, planned to be served within two years.
Bob Mitchell, the county’s director of environmental programs, said the Worcester County Planning Commission had reviewed the proposed amendment last month.
“The planning commission found this consistent with the comprehensive plan,” he said.
Mitchell said the change would not require any upgrades to the county’s wastewater facilities.
“The treatment plant and water system have the capacity to serve this, to handle this, addition without any expansions,” he said.
Commissioner Chip Bertino asked where the line would connect to the existing infrastructure. Mitchell explained that it would come in on the west side of Route 589.
“At this point do we know how this project is going to impact the foliage, the trees, that are there now?” Bertino asked.
Mitchell said the project would be subject to the usual forest conservation requirements.
“I can assure you they’ve made representations, you can ask the applicant themselves, but they want to be good neighbors and have as big a buffer as possible,” he said.
Cropper reiterated that.
“I assure you it’s going to be a very attractive building, sort of in the character of Atlantic General Hospital but keeping with the agricultural tradition under the design plan,” he said. “Every effort will be maintained to preserve existing forest on site.”
Cropper said the building would sit close to the road while parking would be in the rear. He added that the planning commission would approve the project’s site plan before construction began.
“The issue as it relates to our hearing today is that Ocean Pines does have adequate sewer and water capacity and we’re asking for water and sewer,” he said. “There are no upgrades required.”
He pointed out that the site where the project was being built was actually made up of two parcels, both of which had been approved for separate on-site systems.
“An owner could come in and put in an on-site septic system,” he said. “This will take the place of that.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to support the amendment. A site plan for the project is expected to be considered by the planning commission in early 2019. The facility is being built by Sina Companies, a national medical campus developer, and will be leased to Atlantic General Hospital.