LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — After hours of public comment and debate, the Lancaster Planning Commission reached a decision about rezoning the former St. Joseph hospital grounds on Wednesday.
The commission unanimously voted to recommend to city council that the UPMC-owned hospital grounds should be rezoned to allowed mix-used development, but the approval comes with major contingencies.
The first amendment allows the planning commission a week to write specific recommendations for the project that they will pass onto the council for the final vote.
Secondly, the commission is asking UPMC to build a community-oriented facility like low-income housing or services for children or the homeless on the grounds.
Finally, the commission will ask the council to begin long-haul comprehensive city planning for the city.
Planning Commissioner Josh Druce said in this particular project, so many citizens went above and beyond the call of duty for the city, so it’s time the city allows them opportunities to be a part of the conversation, long-term, by working on a much-needed 10-year comprehensive plan.
A majority of the crowd voiced concerns about UPMC’s intentions, worrying they care more about money than health.
“We must not trust them under any circumstances, and the only reason why they’re pushing for this rezoning is so they can make millions,” said Tammy Rojas, Lancaster Healthcare Rights Committee co-coordinator.
UPMC said at least two developers are interested in the property but aren’t ready to go public and can’t move forward until the zoning issue is settled.
“Before we can pursue discussion about more specific uses and site planning, we really need to have zoning in place. A developer isn’t going to spend the time and money to fully engineer this site before they know what uses can go there,” said Claudia Shank, attorney for UPMC.
The council will get the final say on the project after the planning commission turns in their further recommendations.