FAIRLAWN — Attorneys for several Bath Township homeowners have filed an appeal against the Fairlawn Planning Commission’s approval of plans for a Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center.

The appeal, filed Friday in Summit County Common Pleas Court after the commission meeting that afternoon, is based on “questions of law and fact," the appeal says.

The five-member commission gave unanimous approval on two motions: a building height exception from 36 feet to 50 feet and a conditional-use permit for the center.

Friday’s approval came after a Summit County judge in April ordered the commission to reconsider its past approval of the center and despite pleas from nearly a dozen neighboring Bath Township residents not to approve it during a 3½-hour meeting.

Fairlawn law director R. Bryan Nace said Tuesday the planning commission “has been really patient and has listened to everybody’s concerns,” noting the five members are all unpaid volunteers who have “put in quite a bit of time on this project.”

“We’ll continue to work through the system and do what needs to be done in the common pleas court,” Nace said of the appeal. “This wasn’t unexpected. We were assuming that would probably happen.”

Attorneys for the homeowners did not return phone and email messages seeking comment Tuesday.

The Crystal Clinic announced plans last year to build a 160,000-square-foot hospital with 12 operating rooms and 60 inpatient beds at 3557 Embassy Parkway in Fairlawn.

“Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center intends to move forward with the project at Embassy, notwithstanding the appeal," Christopher Swing, an attorney representing the Crystal Clinic, said Tuesday.

The project has faced fierce criticism from Bath homeowners whose properties abut the Embassy Park commercial park. Their objections include the height of the facility, which will be one of the tallest buildings in the city at nearly 50 feet high, with another 10 feet of mechanical equipment on the roof.

Other concerns include light and sound pollution, decreasing property values, safety issues and concerns with patients being able to look into their homes and yards.

Summit County Common Pleas Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands in April ordered the commission to reconsider whether the height of the planned hospital is compatible with the neighboring residential properties in Bath to the north and west of the site.

Rowlands noted the height isn’t out of place within the business park but said the commission failed to consider the residential properties — and that to exclude those homes when making a decision “is unreasonable.” Her order, made as part of a lawsuit filed by the Crystal Shores Homeowners’ Association, wiped out the five-member commission’s March approval of the $100 million hospital project.

But the project was again approved Friday.

Officials with the Crystal Clinic have previously said construction on the hospital is planned to begin in June, with completion in 2021, but it’s unclear if that timeline will remain on track given pending and potential future litigation.

A spokesperson for the Crystal Clinic did not return phone and email messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Attorneys for the homeowners on Friday also filed a motion requesting the court stay the decision or grant an injunction against groundbreaking and construction on the center.

According to a March brief filed in the Crystal Shores Homeowners’ Association case, the cost of the project was initially estimated at $60 million, but more recent estimates for the project put construction costs at about $72 million, with an overall budget of about $97.5 million.

CC Embassy, which owns the property, had spent roughly $7.3 million on the project as of the end of March, with about $5.5 million invested over the previous nine months alone. If construction were delayed, CC Embassy could face at least $1.25 million in increased construction costs, according to the brief.

And if an injunction were granted and the construction manager terminated the construction contract, CC Embassy would have to pay the construction manager for the work already performed — nearly $1.64 million — without receiving a completed project.

The case, assigned to Judge Kelly McLaughlin, is joining at least three other cases in Summit County Common Pleas Court related to the center.

 

Contact Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.