Carson-Tahoe Hospital's ability to expand into Andersen Field or any other Carson City neighborhood could be limited if a group of residents has their way.
About 73 residents have signed a petition to have the word "hospital" deleted from Carson City's residential office land-use designation and added to the city's commercial industrial category.
The hospital is currently zoned "public," a category used to accommodate institutional uses in response to health safety, cultural and welfare needs of residents. But to accommodate growth, hospital officials have purchased adjacent residences, and proposed expanding into neighboring Andersen Field. In their letter, residents say the hospital's expansion could affect any neighborhood.
"The broader message is, we don't want to see encroachment from this new hospital facility on any existing neighborhood, and by extension we definitely don't want it in ours," said Pat Anderson, who lives near the hospital. "The immediate intent is to simply see these changes made. They make sense. We don't want to duplicate the mistake of having another hospital in a residential area."
Steve Smith, hospital chief executive officer, said he was unaware of residents' action, but said it's not an unusual problem for hospitals. St. Mary's Hospital and Washoe Health Systems have both had similar problems as the community grew up around them.
"Where do they want us to go?" asked Smith. "We have bought several houses in the last couple of years. What should we do with those now?"
The hospital is considering three options for its future. It could convert to a private, non-profit corporation, remain a city-owned hospital, or associate with health-care companies Universal or Sutter. Both Universal and Sutter have suggested construction of a new hospital.
"At one time, that hospital (location) was fine," Anderson said. "But if they (Carson-Tahoe) become a regional hospital with significantly more services, it's not anything that we want to see stuck in the middle of our neighborhood. It's simply not compatible with a residential community."
The residents' request was submitted to Carson City's Community Development Department last week in one of a series of workshops.
"The real intent is to make them (zoning issues) more reader friendly, and to address current issues and old inconsistencies," Carson City Senior Planner Skip Canfield said.
Following these workshops, recommendations will be addressed in a public hearing before the Planning Commission. If approved, they will be forwarded to the Board of Supervisors.
Under the current rules, areas zoned for residential offices should preserve the characteristics of the residential environment while permitting selected, non-residential uses. But authors of the letter argue that is not the case with a hospital in the neighborhood.
"By placing a large institution like a hospital in the center of a residential zone or by consuming the established buffer zone between more commercial uses and residential neighborhoods, you effectively sign the death certificate for those neighborhoods," the letter argues. "Slowly, but surely surrounding residential parcels are converted over to businesses with ties to the supporting institution as residents flee the area with increased commercial encroachment
"Hospitals are essentially commercial, service-related operations and are best suited for light commercial zones and not residential neighborhoods, or the buffer zones insulating them from opposing land use designations.
Signatures were obtained from residents living as far away from the hospital as Buzzy's Ranch Road on the east side of town, as well as bordering the hospital on Mountain Street.
"It's a square peg in a round hole," Anderson said. "And we should start looking at parcels that are more compatible with a commercial area."