County Split on Hospital

County Split on Hospital

Scores of residents turn out at a public hearing on Broadlands Regional Medical Center; crowd includes employees and consultants on both sides.

So what do residents think about the proposed Broadlands Regional Medical Center?

Tracy White, a mother of two in Ashburn, wants it for her diabetic son.

Jack Brunner, president of the Kincaid Forest Homeowners Association, wants it too, and said it would benefit everyone in the county.

But Broadlands resident Kent Larson said it would cause more "terror, fear and disruption."

And Tom Mihich, another Broadlands resident, said he moved here from New York to live in an area with a "park-like setting" — in other words, not adjacent to a hospital.

As a measure of public opinion on the proposed 164-bed hospital in Broadlands, the June 22 public hearing was a draw: hundreds of supporters and detractors flooded the Broad Run High School auditorium and dozens spoke passionately on both sides.

Detractors worried about the safety of children with hospital traffic and the proposed center's compatibility with the residential neighborhood. The 58-acre tract is currently zoned for office construction. They also pushed for a hospital in the southern Route 50 corridor, farther from Loudoun Healthcare's 155-bed Lansdowne campus.

Supporters pointed out that Loudoun has less hospital beds per capita than the state average and that the site, adjacent to the Dulles Greenway, would provide good access for western Loudoun.

In addition to residents, the crowd included a fair share of employees and consultants from both corporate entities involved: Loudoun Healthcare, which has fought the Broadlands application and called it a threat to its financial viability, and Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which owns the land and is the largest for-profit hospital system in the country.

WHEN IT CAME to spectacle, Loudoun Healthcare outdid its opponent. Its supporters wore a variety of coded clothing: a green hat meant the wearer was a Loudoun resident, a yellow "I live in the HCA fallout zone" meant the wearer lived on the streets nearest the proposed Broadlands site and white shirts denoted general opposition.

Broadlands supporters, meanwhile, wore more demure blue polo shirts and yellow bandannas.

Throughout the night, Broadlands Regional Medical Center CEO Bryan Dearing kept a tally of speakers for and against his project.

Twenty-four speakers supported HCA, while 39 were against.

While the auditorium seemed overwhelmed with Loudoun Healthcare's color-coordinating, Dearing thought HCA was well-represented.

"I think it ended up pretty well even," he said.

The Board of Supervisors decided to send the Broadlands special exception rezoning request to committee for further discussion, a move that encouraged Dearing.

"We went into it thinking that there didn't seem to be a majority [of supervisor votes] going in our favor," he said. "I'm thankful we get to go to committee."

SUPERVISORS will likely continue discussion at its July 25 meeting of the Transportation/Land Use committee.

Because the Board of Supervisors takes a hiatus during the month of August, the board vote will come in September at the earliest.

As the public hearing showed, the hospital issue has caused emotions to run high on both sides.

Supervisor Mick Staton (R-Sugarland Run), who is chair of the Transportation/Land Use committee, said the board's decision would be only "on the merits" and not on emotions.

"Certainly, when it comes to making a decision on this application, we will keep the politics out of it," he said. "Unfortunately, we can't keep the politics out of the airways and out of the papers."

If the county turns down HCA's special exception request, Dearing has said they will consider litigation.