Friday, September 07, 2001

Hospital for Mason withdrawn

Alliance scales back plan for site

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Be it wanted or dreaded, Mason won't be getting a hospital anytime soon.

        The Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati has withdrawn a rezoning request that would have allowed building a hospital as part of a 35-acre medical complex at the southwest corner of Mason-Montgomery Road and Cedar Village Drive.

        As a result, public hearings about the rezoning proposal have been canceled. It remains unclear, however, what plans the Health Alliance still has for the site.

        “Our goal is certainly to use the site for health care purposes. But we're not ready to say what those plans are,” said Health Alliance spokeswoman Gail Myers.

        A proposal submitted to the Mason Planning Commission called for a 350,000-square-foot hospital, a cancer treatment facility, an ambulatory surgery center, women's health services, two medical office buildings and a parking garage.

        Even before public hearings were held, the project drew criticism from some neighbors concerned about potential traffic congestion and helicopter noise.

        Without rezoning, the Health Alliance cannot build a hospital at the site. However, the hospital group contends it was never all that serious about building a hospital in Mason.

        “Our request was blown out of proportion. We didn't have a hospital plan. We just wanted to have that option,” Ms. Myers said.

        Under existing zoning, it will be possible to build medical offices and other less intensive medical services at the site. But the Health Alliance has not decided what those services may be, nor when construction may start, Ms. Myers said.

        For many years, Warren County has been the only county in the Tristate without a hospital.

        That distinction is expected to change in the next several years, once Middletown Regional Hospital completes a planned move to a site just inside Warren County's borders.

        Yet even without a hospital in the plans, a large medical complex in Mason would appear to clash with the University Pointe project in West Chester along I-75 and Cox Road.

        Construction has begun on a $12 million medical office there, the first part of a $100 million project that calls for a mix of medical and retail uses.

        In addition to being located fairly close to the Mason site, University Pointe is sponsored by UC Physicians, a doctors group closely affiliated with the Health Alliance.

        “I think it would be in competition with the campus we're proposing. But I don't know enough about the uses they have planned there,” said John Gillespie, director of marketing and development for UC Physicians.


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