FAIRLAWN — Crystal Clinic is preparing a backup location for its Fairlawn orthopedic center as the future of its current planned location sits in limbo in court.
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.
The $100 million project has faced fierce criticism and a lengthy court battle from Bath homeowners whose properties abut the site. Their objections include the height of the facility, which would 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.
The backup location for the Crystal Clinic Orthopaedic Center is in Fairlawn Corporate Park, at the corner of Cleveland-Massillon and Ridgewood roads.
The proposed 14.8-acre site is located along Cleveland-Massillon Road, just north of the Ridgewood Road intersection. Its southern border is roughly in line with Southwestern Boulevard in the corporate park.
Stephen Funk, an Akron attorney representing Fairlawn, emphasized the Embassy Parkway location is still Crystal Clinic’s “Plan A.” The corporate park location is its “Plan B.”
Crystal Clinic has previously said in court documents it would lose millions in construction costs if the project were moved.
Crystal Clinic spokesperson Rick Worrell said although the project is currently “in limbo,” the targeted completion date for the center is still 2021.
“We’re planning on moving ahead and always have been,” he said. “We just have to slow down for a minute.”
To allow facilities like the Crystal Clinic center to be built there, Fairlawn’s five-member planning commission on Thursday unanimously approved recommending Fairlawn City Council add a new classification to the city’s zoning code to allow for specialty hospitals, which wouldn’t be allowed to include emergency rooms or helipads.
The planning commission also approved recommending city council rezone the 14.8 vacant acres in the corporate park to the new zoning, which would be used for Crystal Clinic’s center if it decides not to put it on Embassy Parkway.
Council gave the ordinance a first reading at its June 3 meeting. It’s on the agenda for Monday’s council meeting. A public hearing is also set for July 15.
Funk said council will only move forward on voting on the ordinance if Crystal Clinic decides to move its center to the corporate park. He said the city decided to start the process now to be prepared in case that did happen.
"On behalf of the city, I think this is the best option because from a zoning perspective, you're not really affecting any other land other than this,” Funk said.
Scott Ruport, an attorney representing Crystal Clinic on the project, said Crystal Clinic is in favor of the proposed zoning amendment.
“This is our Plan B,” he said of the corporate park location. “Plan A is the Embassy Parkway site.”
Principal and vice president Paul Widlarz with the project’s Wisconsin-based architecture firm HGA said if the building were constructed in the corporate park, where it would be allowed to be up to 65 feet high with up to an additional 15 feet of mechanical equipment on the roof, it would be similar to the planned Embassy Parkway building.
Planning commission chairman J. Scott Rainey said because the commission wasn’t talking about a site plan, he was “comfortable ... conceptually” with the rezoning. He did say he might be concerned in the future with the hospital’s effect on the future widening of Cleveland-Massillon Road.
“The only thing in front of us currently is whether or not to amend our zoning code to allow a specialty hospital,” he said. “Our office park was constructed in such a way to attract businesses, these kinds of businesses, these kinds of uses.”
An appeal remains pending in Summit County Common Pleas Court against the planning commission's approval this month of plans for the center at Embassy Parkway, including a building height exception from 36 feet to 50 feet and a conditional use permit.
The commission had already approved the final site plan in March, but a judge in April ordered the commission to reconsider its approval because it didn't take into account whether the height of the facility is compatible with the surrounding residential property in Bath to the north and west.
Attorneys for the Bath homeowners also filed a motion requesting the court stay the decision or grant an injunction against groundbreaking and construction on the center, along with a request for a temporary restraining order to prevent construction.
There are at least four cases in Summit County Common Pleas Court related to the center.
Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, email@example.com and @EmilyMills818.