By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The Oxford Planning Commission approved several elements in plans for the new Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi.
Slightly more than half the 149-acre property south of Highway 6, between Old Taylor Road and South Lamar Boulevard, has been cleared of timber. Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation plans a 680,000 square foot, 217-bed, six-story hospital to replace the current hospital on South Lamar.
“We’re looking for approval so we can begin work on grading,” said Hospital Administrator Bill Henning. “We hope to get started by August.” He added that a best-case scenario would have the hospital completed in late 2017.
Since meeting with local residents, hospital officials have agreed to add a third water detention pond on the property, which contributes some 74 acres to the Birney Branch watershed’s 1,000-plus acres.
“We are improving the situation, but we can’t solve it for them,” said Pat Harcourt, a partner with engineering and architectural firm A2H.
On the other end of the project, the extension of Belk Boulevard from Old Taylor Road eastward will squeeze the new street within a few feet of nine homes.
Homeowner Jan Cauthen said the noise and fast-moving traffic merits the neighborhood at least a 10-foot-high brick wall.
“You can see where the road was designed literally at our back door. There is no buffer,” she said.
Commissioners voted to approve the hospital site plan contingent on several added details, including a sound-barrier fence along the condo complex and the future dedication of right-of-way for a north-south road.
The same body also approved a 49-foot height variance over the existing 38-foot limit to allow construction of a six-story structure that would reach 87 feet above ground level.
City ordinance would normally require one space for each patient room and another for every 200 square feet of hospital interior, but that formula would have the new facility surrounded by some 3,500 parking spaces. Instead, the Planning Commission approved a 1,300-space parking lot.
One suggestion was using an existing parking structure.
“Has the hospital considered light rail to shuttle employees from the parking garage to the new hospital?” asked Commissioner John Bradley.
“No, sir,” Henning said. “We have not.”