Roeland Park Planning Commission endorses hospital and bank proposal

The rendering shows the plan for a new hospital and bank branch in Roeland Park.
The rendering shows the plan for a new hospital and bank branch in Roeland Park.

A $6 million proposal to build a small hospital and bank branch at the northwest corner of Roe Avenue and Johnson Drive was endorsed by the Roeland Park Planning Commission Monday.

By a 4-1 vote, the commission recommended the city council approve the rezoning required for the proposal, which calls for a 2,325 square-foot Commerce Bank branch and an eight-bed hospital that includes emergency room services.

The approval came after a nearly three-hour hearing. The commission heard from several neighbors who objected, questioning the need for the hospital, and saying it would lower property values and bring unwelcome noise and lighting to their area.

Planning commissioner Paula Gleason said she was on the board in 2012 when the site was rezoned from residential to mixed-use zoning for a larger Commerce Bank proposal in 2012, and that a more intense retail uses could have occurred there.

“At this point, Commerce is asking to share the site with something that is a much quieter, less traffic (generating) facilty than many things that could be there,” Gleason said.

The development, which is planned for a property that’s been vacant since a cloverleaf intersection was removed, also would generate $51,000 in annual property taxes to the city.

“It is a substantial commercial investment and good revenue generator for the city,” City Administrator Keith Moody said.

The for-profit hospital and its Level 4 trauma center would be developed by Embree Asset Group of Georgetown, Texas. The firm also is planning to develop similar micro-hospitals in Leawood and Overland Park.

Steven Kirkpatrick, an Embree representative, said his firm is developing the hospitals, but they would be operated by a local health care provider that he declined to identify.

The facility will have a 10-member staff and be equipped with a computerized tomography (CT) and X-ray machines. An average of 30- to 35 patients daily are expected. No outpatient services will be provided. Meals for inpatients will be prepared off site and brought in.

Kirkpatrick said the facility will serve a healthcare niche that exists between the urgent care services provided at the type of walk-in clinics found at some pharmacies and the emergency rooms of major hospitals.

“This will be a community hospital for Roeland Park and surrounding communities,” he said. “There’s a wide gap between an urgent care clinic when that closes and the severe trauma centers at hospitals.”

Few ambulances are anticipated to bring patients to the proposed hospital because those more severely injured or sick people will go immediately to larger hospitals with Level 1 trauma units, Kirkpatrick said.

The hospital proposal had been endorsed by the Roeland Park planners with the conditions the facility be limited to no larger than 20,000 square-feet, noise levels held below 60 decibels, signs be limited to the building facade, 1 percent be reserved for art at the corner, and the city council approve any changes to the plan.

The planning commission accepted the staff recommendations and added requirements that adequate bicycle parking be provided, doors placed on trash enclosures and an interior sidewalk be included to allow better pedestrian access.

Commissioner William Ahrens was the only opponent to the rezoning. He believed the mixed-use zoning should not have been altered to allow the hospital project.

“If mixed zoning is changed to accommodate a hospital, what do we open the door to?” he asked.

Jennifer Jones-Lacy, assistant city administrator, said the staff believed the project “was a sensible solution within the confines of that parcel.”