MHCC moving forward with clinic
Petition for zoning amendment in progress for property next to Saratoga Care Center
January 22, 2020
Plans for Memorial Hospital of Carbon County (MHCC) to establish a clinic in Saratoga appear to be moving forward, though not with the property in which MHCC had originally shown interest. The plans of the hospital came during the January 14 meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission.
As was reported previously (see “Medical debate continues” on page 1 of the November 27, 2019 Saratoga Sun), MHCC interim CEO Bob Quist had appeared before the Saratoga Town Council on November 19 to express interest in property owned by the Town of Saratoga. During that meeting, Quist had informed the governing body the MHCC Board of Trustees would request “if we were successful bidders on it that we do a special use permit or a zoning change from residential to commercial.”
Quist had also stated the Town of Saratoga property was one of “several potential sites” that the Board of Trustees was considering for the proposed clinic. At the December 4 meeting of the Saratoga Town Council, Councilmember Bob Keel stated that he had been informed by Councilmember Judy Welton that MHCC was no longer interested in the property.
It wasn’t until the most recent meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission that discussion of MHCC and a proposed clinic returned to Saratoga. Kent Smith, interim zoning officer, informed the planning commission of a petition currently underway by Saratoga resident John Hornbeck for a zoning amendment. The zoning amendment would, if approved, change property owned by Hornbeck from RD 7200 to Highway Business (HB).
“What Mr. Hornbeck has is those lots that are right behind the old folks’ home, just to the south. You can see that the zoning is different. It’s HB (Highway Business) for the old folks’ home,” said Smith. “Well, he’s got these down here and … he wants to sell these lots and somebody wants to put in a clinic, but they want it to be zoned HB.”
Under Saratoga Municipal Code 18.18.040, RD 7200’s “special permit uses” include a hospital and clinic. Smith informed the planning commission that, while a clinic was allowed under RD 7200 with a special permit, the purchase of the property was conditional upon the zone change. Saratoga Care Center, which is on the same block as Hornbeck’s property, is zoned Highway Business.
Smith suggested to the planning commission that, should they recommend approval of the zoning amendment following the petition, a stipulation be placed. The suggested stipulation from Smith was that only a clinic be allowed for the zoning amendment and if a clinic were not built the zoning goes back to RD 7200.
“I don’t think you can put a stipulation on a zone change request about what can go there. You either change the zone and whatever is allowed in that zone is allowed or it’s not,” said Randy Raymer. “I don’t think you can specify that, so I think you need to weigh that in your consideration of changing that zone.”
Vice-Chairman Tom Westring stated he didn’t see an issue with the zoning amendment nor did he believe it would fall under “spot zoning,” an issue that the planning commission has attempted to avoid.
“We’re already going to be adjoining highway business. To me that makes sense,” said Westring. “As far as the stipulation, that kind of raises a flag to me. Maybe we need to seek advice from legal counsel on something like that.”
Westring asked Keel if he would speak with Tom Thompson, legal counsel for the Town of Saratoga, about stipulations on a zoning amendment. Keel stated that he believed it would be a conflict of interest and offered to give Thompson’s email to Chairman Jim Beckmann.
Hornbeck informed the commission that while he was currently going through the petition process, he was having difficulty obtaining signatures of some of the landowners. The South Central Wyoming Emergency Medical Services (SCWEMS) Joint Powers Board had yet to meet for January and the Saratoga Town Council briefly discussed the zoning amendment during their January 7 meeting. Additionally, Hornbeck was having difficulty contacting Deseret Landco, the owners of the skilled nursing facility leased by Saratoga Care Center.
Under 18.78.020 of the Saratoga Municipal Code, a zoning amendment application must include signatures from all property owners with a three hundred foot radius “of the perimeter of the property in question” with 50 percent or more of the property owners in approval of the amendment. The application must be filed 22 days prior to a planning commission meeting and the planning commission must hold a public hearing on the proposed amendments after at least 15 days notice by publication in the newspaper.
Should the planning commission approve the zoning amendment, the town council must also hold a public meeting after at least 15 days notice of publication in the newspaper.
Before moving on to other business, MHCC Board of Trustees President Rod Waeckerlin gave the planning commission a brief preview of what was planned by the hospital.
“Our board has voted to extend our services into this community and this is our preferred piece of property that the board has looked at. We are planning to construct a 4,000 square foot medical clinic. It’s going to be approximately $2-2.6 million that we’re planning on spending on this facility,” said waickerlin. We’re planning on bringing in a full-time, board certified family practice medical doctor that’s going to be a full-time resident of this community and additional staff.”
The next meeting of the Saratoga Planning Commission will be at 5:30 p.m. on February 11 at Saratoga Town Hall.