Dulles South residents may finally be able to feel more at ease in times of emergency. Inova Health System announced last week that it intends to open its newest health-care facility — the Inova Community Health Care Center at Avonlea — next spring. But the center, which will be located in the Avonlea office complex off Route 50, is only the beginning of expanded health-care facilities in the Dulles South area. The company announced Oct. 14 it had entered into a purchase agreement for a parcel of 94 acres of land with longtime Loudoun resident Haseltine Shockey, owner of the Shockey Farm. The 22,000-square-foot, 24-hour urgent-care diagnostic facility complete with CT scanner — a sophisticated piece of X-ray equipment — and laboratory facilities, should solve the area's immediate health-care needs, Inova spokesman Tony Raker said. The newly purchased property is a more long-term solution to health care as the community grows, he said. Raker said, Inova has always been on the lookout for a good expansion site to tackle the lack of health care in the Dulles South area. He said the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission made it clear in their health-care facilities comprehensive plan amendment (CPAM) that Dulles South was a prime location for extended health-care services. "Supervisor Snow insisted prior to his election that one of his prime initiatives was to gain health care for his citizens in the Dulles South area," Raker said. "We got the message. There's no question about it."
INOVA PROPOSES to build a 100,000-square-foot HealthPlex on the Shockey land, approximately two miles away from the health-care center, on Route 50. The location of the new hospital site at the western most piece of suburban policy area on the north side of Route 50 — an area where Loudoun County has shown it wishes institutional growth to occur — was one of the primary reasons Inova decided to purchase that particular parcel of land, said Randall Minchew, legal counsel for both Loudoun Healthcare and the Shockey family.
"The site is as far west as you can go while still staying in the suburban policy areas and as close as you can get to serving the towns of southwestern Loudoun County like Middleburg and Aldie," he said. "The site works on a number of different planes. It's in a good location, near the roads, and frankly it will be a good site for a future hospital to serve the Dulles South area."
Minchew said that after the merger with Loudoun Healthcare, Inova started a process of looking for a site for a future hospital along the Route 50 corridor, starting at the Fairfax County line. He said the company decided early on for several reasons to buy in the suburban policy area, not in the transitional policy area. First, the suburban policy area is an area that has been planned and zoned for industrial development such as a hospital and is already sewer- and water-ready. Second, the hospital will eventually sit at the intersection of two major roads: at Route 50 and a new road not yet built, called the relocated Route 659 and also known as the Gum Springs Road extension.
Last, Minchew said, Inova wanted to stay away from the controversy brewing in the transitional policy area over how the land should be developed. Because the suburban policy area is already planned for development, it does not take a plan amendment to move forward with the project and that was a plus for Inova, Minchew said.
THE HOSPITAL'S development depends on how fast the community grows.
"We're all kind of taking our cue from the county at this point," he said. "But what's very good for the residents is they can be assured of health-care access in the future." Supervisor Steve Snow, (R-Dulles), said the proposed hospital is something Dulles South residents desperately need. Most of his constituents, he said, go to either the Inova Fair Oaks or Lansdowne facilities when they need emergency care, but because of the road network in Fairfax, it's difficult to get to either of those hospitals expeditiously. Raker said that depending on traffic and the time of day, it can take up to 18 minutes to get to either facility, which can worsen an already stressful emergency situation.
"We're absolutely delighted that one of the hospitals stepped up to meet the needs of the residents in the Dulles South area," Snow said. "The feedback I've received from citizens is that they're excited about the prospect and many of them have thanked me for being an ardent supporter of having a hospital in Dulles South area ... I'm appreciative of the fact that Inova listened to the citizens concerns." Because there's no real way to determine at this point how fast the community will grow, the hospital development timeline is fuzzy, Raker said. However, Inova does intend to go forward with plans to build the HealthPlex, which will have an emergency department and include everything the Avonlea health-care center will have. The only difference between a full-fledged hospital and the HealthPlex is that a hospital would have medical beds and the HealthPlex will not. The Avonlea health-care center does not require any permits, however Inova will have to get a special exception from the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission and a certificate of public need (COPN) from the state before it's able to set up shop on the Shockey land for the HealthPlex. The property is currently zoned industrial but will need a special exception from the Board of Supervisors to be used for that purpose, Minchew said. As for the COPN, the process could take six to eight months or up to a year or more, if it is challenged by any interest in the community, Raker said. Once the HealthPlex is established, the Avonlea center will probably be closed, he added.
MINCHEW SAID Shockey, who is ill, liked the idea of having her property go to a human resource use such as a hospital. "She wanted to have her property be designated to some kind of use that would help her fellow man rather than building more houses," he said.
Inova has opted not to disclose the purchasing price at this time but Minchew said he was informed that the property was sold at fair-market value. Jack Shockey, Haseltine Shockey's son, said they felt selling the land to the hospital would be good for the community.
"It's a good use for that land and good for the citizens of Loudoun County," he said.