The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday night a proposal from one of Northern Virginia’s largest healthcare providers that will more than double the size of Inova Mount Vernon hospital.
The board’s approval of Inova Health Care Service’s multi-phased expansion plan comes after intense scrutiny from local residents about Inova’s plans for transportation infrastructure, nature and community engagement.
“This has not been an easy application,” said Sarah Hall, Inova’s legal representative at the board’s public hearing. “There have been community concerns. Inova has listened to those concerns.”
But Queenie Cox, president of the New Gums Springs Civic Association, said local residents have lingering doubts about long-term plans for roads surrounding the hospital.
Residents fear that the possibility that the county transportation department could widen Sherwood Hall Lane from Richmond Highway to Parkers Lane would increase hospital traffic on the road, making it more difficult for local residents and church goers to access the community.
“We need to come to a clarification whether or not widening [Sherwood Hall Lane] will ever be a consideration,” said Ron Chase, president of the Gum Springs Historical Society.
Though she said the association is supportive of the expansion,with close to 200 signatures urging them to protect the quality of life of Gums Springs residents in accordance with the comprehensive plan.
Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, who acknowledged the “angst” Gums Springs residents have felt about the hospital’s plans, said the community would be consulted before the county makes any changes to nearby roads.
“Gum Springs is such an important part of the history and fabric of the community,” he said.
In April, Gum Springs before proposing to make several changes to Richmond Highway that they said would have adversely affected tenants in the Spring Garden apartment building.
A Multi-Phased Expansion
Inova’s proposal includes the construction of 322,000 square feet of additional gross floor space, a six-story parking garage, and the addition of 52 beds for a total of 289 hospital beds.
“Mount Vernon hospital wants to be prepared to meet the health care needs of this expanding population,” said Hall at the board’s public hearing.
Mount Vernon Hospital representatives have said the expansion will occur in phases, but the exact timing and content of the expansion beyond phase one will be determined by the needs of the community and changes in the healthcare market.
The first phase will include the construction of Bed Tower C, a three-story tower that will expand to include an additional 53,000 square feet of gross floor space. Inova plans to construct two new larger operating rooms, about 850 square feet each, to replace two smaller operating rooms, according to county documents.
Hall said the hospital hopes to break ground on this phase by the end of next year. Inova representatives have previously estimated that the additions would cost around $43.6 million dollars.
In subsequent phases, the healthcare facility expects to add two new ambulatory care centers at 75,000 square feet each. Bed Tower D, which will include an additional 75,000 square feet, will be constructed over the proposed emergency department expansion.
Hospital representatives said that converting semi-private rooms into private rooms in both of the bed towers will decrease the likelihood of hospital-acquired infections, enhance privacy and improve patient satisfaction.
Because the hospital system does not plan to significantly increase the number of beds housed at Inova Mount Vernon, representatives have said the expansion will also not cause a major increase in traffic on local roads.
At each phase Hyland said the county will evaluate traffic levels on roads surrounding the hospital to determine if changes to transportation infrastructure are necessary.
Hall also said the hospital has agreed to make a contribution of about 1.4 million dollars to the county for those road changes. That figure doesn’t include the 60,000 dollars that the hospital has agreed to pay for further transportation assessments or the money the hospital would pay for two proposed traffic lights, said Hall.
Hall said the hospital aims to create a “campus-like” environment that will include bike racks and landscaped open space, among other improvements.
The MVCCA planning and zoning and transportation committees passed a resolution that says they did not oppose Inova’s expansion.
“The importance of Mount Vernon Hospital to South East Fairfax County is vital,” said Lee District Supervisor Jeff Mckay. “[The expansion is] proof that they will be here for the long run.”
This article has been updated since it was originally published.