Judge to Decide Hospital's Fate

Judge to Decide Hospital's Fate

The court battle over the proposed Broadlands Regional Medical Center between the hospital's representatives and the county is in its final stages as Judge Thomas D. Horne is expected to make a judgment soon.

The Northern Virginia Community Hospital (NVCH) filed suit last year challenging the Board of Supervisors' ruling that denied the Comprehensive Plan amendments and rezonings needed to begin construction of the hospital.

The proposed hospital is a 164-bed facility located along the west side of Belmont Ridge Road and south of the Dulles Greenway in Ashburn. The location is less than five miles from the existing Inova Loudoun Hospital in Lansdowne, which has been the subject of an ongoing court battle between Inova and the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), owner of the proposed Broadlands Medical Center.

Last August, the board voted against HCA's request for a special exception to build the hospital citing concerns about traffic and cohabitation with surrounding neighborhoods. The board's denial casused Northern Virginia Community Hospital to file suit.

Parties for both sides were in court Wednesday, Sept. 6, to make final arguments about whether the Board of Supervisors should have readvertised the changes they made to the amendments before voting. All changes to the Comprehensive Plan and land-use changes must go through a public hearing before the board can vote on them.

Horne's decision and the issue of readvertisement could also come into play in the board's recent decision to approve the Rural Policy Area Comprehensive Plan amendment. Wednesday, Sept. 6, the board voted to approve an amendment that allowed for more intensive residential density in the rural west than was originally advertised. Supervisors were split over whether a readvertisement and subsequent public hearing were necessary to keep the vote free from legal challenge.

BRUCE BLANCHARD, attorney for the county in the hospital suit, argued that the advertisement put out before the original hearing on the Broadlands Regional Medical Center covered all aspects of the amendment the board approved.

"All the main topics are covered in that notice," he said. "The action that was taken was action that was in reach of the notice. There is going to be some information found in the public hearing process that will make it into the final decision."

Blanchard pointed out that the original notice made mention that the amendment dealt with types of health-care facilities, demographic and geographic issues, making it clear to the public what was being debated.

"I don't see how anyone could read that and have an interest in the location of health care in Loudoun County and not know they needed to appear," Blanchard said.

ATTORNEYS FOR NVCH said it was the very general nature of the original advertisement that made another advertisement and public hearing necessary.

"The changes [the board] made were quite substantial," attorney Robert Vieth said, "triggering the obligation to readvertise."

Vieth added that the public deserved sufficient notice of the specific changes to the original amendment. He said the public should have been informed of the county's new goal for health care that included locating health-care facilities in places where the infrastructure was already in place and giving hospitals along the Route 50 corridor special consideration.

"None of this is fairly encompassed by the original advertisement," Vieth said. "The advertisement is very general. It doesn't describe what the board passed."

DUE TO THE general nature of the Comprehensive Plan, Blanchard said advertisements should be just as general.

"The descriptive summary has to be reflective of the plan itself," he said. "The purpose of the notice is so that anyone who has an interest in the subject matter should appear."

Blanchard added that, while the advertisement was in general terms, that the 12 main points all track with the main points of the Comprehensive Plan.

"They may be done by reference and are not required to be detailed," he said. "Were they put on notice? Absolutely."

Vieth, however, said that the general nature of advertisements allow the board to make changes without properly informing the public of its intentions.

"I think it is really telling if one advertises in such a general fashion that details like this are included," he said. "It is so general that of course you can say the public was informed."

As of press time, Horne had not ruled in the case.