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Westmoreland

Judge denies Excela's objections, allows AHN 'mini-hospital' in Hempfield to proceed

Jacob Tierney
| Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, 5:03 p.m.
The planned site of AHN Hempfield, the first of four, 10-bed neighborhood hospitals to be opened in Westmoreland County, as seen on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. The first hospital, which the Allegheny Health Network wants to open in summer 2019, would be located at the corner of Route 30 and Agnew Road.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The planned site of AHN Hempfield, the first of four, 10-bed neighborhood hospitals to be opened in Westmoreland County, as seen on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. The first hospital, which the Allegheny Health Network wants to open in summer 2019, would be located at the corner of Route 30 and Agnew Road.

Hempfield and Allegheny Health Network have won a court battle against Excela Health, allowing construction of a “mini-hospital” on Route 30 to move forward.

Excela argued the township didn’t do its due diligence when it approved AHN’s site plan in December, but Westmoreland County Judge Harry F. Smail Jr. disagreed, denying Excela’s appeal.

“I think the judge’s decision is correct, and it speaks for itself,” said Scott Avolio, Hempfield’s solicitor. “It just confirms that the township acted properly in how it proceeded.”

AHN didn’t let the pending litigation slow it down. Preliminary work on the site has already begun.

“They’re full steam ahead,” Avolio said.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision and look forward to providing the people of Westmoreland County with an exceptional new option for emergency care and other services that will be provided at our AHN Hempfield—Neighborhood Hospital,” Allegheny Health Network spokesman Doug Braunsdorf wrote in a statement.

Excela representatives could not be reached for comment.

Excela still has the option of appealing Smail’s ruling to a higher court.

Excela has opposed the project since the beginning. Excela Health Westmoreland hospital in Greensburg is located about two miles from the AHN site.

Most of Excela’s argument centered on an unusual development plan called “vertical phasing.” AHN’s planned 120,000-square-foot hospital didn’t have the number of parking spaces required by township code.

To get around this problem, AHN proposed building the entire facility but only occupy two thirds of it. Upper floors would remain empty until AHN solves the parking problem — either by acquiring adjoining land to extend the parking lot or by getting a township zoning variance for fewer spaces.

This type of development is not addressed anywhere in state and local laws and should not have been approved, Excela said.

However, Smail wrote in his decision that the plan “appears reasonable” and that he is “unwilling to second guess the township’s interpretation of its own ordinance.”

Excela’s other concerns, about stormwater mitigation and traffic impacts, were similarly dismissed.

The proposed hospital at the corner of Route 30 and Agnew Road will consist of two buildings containing an emergency room and 10 beds for observation and short-term stays.

It is one of four proposed regional “micro-hospitals” established in a partnership between AHN, Highmark and Emerus, a Texas-based developer that will manage the hospitals. AHN also has proposed neighborhood hospitals in Brentwood, McCandless and Harmar, all in Allegheny County.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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