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Layton Council narrowly OKs rezone for new hospital

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LAYTON — Believing a new hospital is the best prescription to bolster a sagging old downtown area, the City Council and mayor narrowly approved a rezone request Thursday night that opens the door for Intermountain Healthcare to construct a new facility on Layton's south side.

Mayor Steve Curtis had to vote and break a 2-2 council tally, which followed a more than 2 1/2-hour public hearing.

"I see no reason to deny this proposal," said Curtis, who lives in the area where the hospital will be. He stressed he wanted to eliminate all emotion from his mind in making the decision.

Councilman Scott Freitag made the motion to approve the rezone of 41.8 acres at about 575 S. Flint St., from a condominium-townhouse status to a business research park. He said approving the request was consistent with the traffic improvements planned in the area and in following the recommendations of both Layton city staff and the Planning Commission.

He believes Layton has plenty of retail development now, plus many vacant homes in town. Thus, a hospital could benefit the city the most with new family-sustaining jobs and property tax from future, possible surrounding medical offices. Total open property in this area is 70 acres.

Councilwoman Kathy Hyde Smith also voted yes, believing the hospital to be a potential economic pile driver for the area.

Joyce Brown, another councilwoman, voted no, as did Councilman Renny Knowlton, who expressed uncertainty that this is the best place for a new hospital.

Councilman Michael Bouwhuis excused himself from the meeting because of a conflict of interest involving an association with Davis Hospital.

Many of the 50-plus people who attended the hearing didn't seem to be in favor of the proposed hospital for various reasons.

David Denny, who lives affected area, said most residents he knows didn't favor the Intermountain proposal and that he doesn't understand how Layton could change its master plan so easily to allow a hospital.

Sally Marsden agreed, and said she recently moved from Gentile Street to Flint Street to get away from all the traffic. She dreads the possible late-night hospital helicopter flight noise.

Christian Hess, an eye surgeon in Layton, cited a study noting a second hospital in town would actually increase health-care costs there.

Robert Christensen said he and his family are excited about the prospects of a new Layton hospital. Bruce Davis, another Layton resident, said he was in favor of the hospital, "so we have a greater choice here."

Mark Orton of Kaysville said he fears more sirens in the neighborhood and noted that none of the hospitals in north Davis or Weber counties are full now.

Some residents wanted the property nearest to the railroad tracks to be where the hospital goes — not the southwest portion. But given the creation of a five-lane new road in the area — 750 South Street — only 19 acres would be left there on the east, not enough for a hospital.

There were some fears expressed that a new hospital might decrease usage of the existing Davis Hospital on the north end of town.

The exact size of the hospital isn't determined yet and a site plan isn't done either. The hospital can't be higher than 100 feet though, and may be only a 50-120 bed facility. However, the city is mandating a 100-foot buffer around the hospital property, a combination of open space and greenery.

Intermountain also will pay for and construct a segment of the Kay's Creek trail through the area, as well as a connecting walking path on their property. Most existing subdivision streets in the area will also be stubbed off to prevent increased traffic in most of the neighborhoods around the development. One traffic study showed the hospital would produce slightly less traffic than a dense residential development there would.

The hospital could be built within the next five years.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com