ALIQUIPPA -- VieCare Beaver LLC has withdrawn a request for a zoning amendment for the former Aliquippa Hospital site, where it was planning to build a new model of nursing homes and a medical facility.
VieCare, a partnership between Lutheran SeniorLife and Heritage Valley Health System, wants to move forward with the project, officials said, but little has happened since it submitted the zoning application to Aliquippa in May 2013.
“We appreciate the cooperation of Aliquippa and enjoyed working with the city officials, but the elongated process was becoming a problem," said Mark O’Donnell, director of communication for Lutheran SeniorLife.
Plans for the property at 2500 Hospital Drive included four Green House Project homes, which are one-story nursing facilities designed to be “homelike” and accommodate 10 residents each. Next door, Heritage Valley proposed a “medical neighborhood” with a walk-in clinic and other services such as primary care and imaging.
The project would have taken up about 6 acres and left room for future development on the vacant property, which was given to VieCare, also known as LIFE Beaver County, in 2012 by local developer Chuck Betters.
VieCare requested that the zoning be changed from R-1 low-density residential to R-3 high-density residential to accommodate the project. An R-3 zone allows 16 different uses, including clinics, business and professional offices, single-family dwellings and apartments.
During city meetings about the project, however, officials and residents expressed concerns over what could be built on the rest of the 28-acre parcel under the new zoning district, among other issues such as a payment in lieu of taxes agreement.
City Administrator Samuel Gill said officials wanted a detailed plan of VieCare’s intentions for the property, both short-range and long-range, before proceeding.
“We were waiting for them to come with an alternative plan because of some of these conditions that we were asking them for as far as the building site and concerns about the zoning matter,” Gill said. “(We wanted) more clarity for what they were going to do with the property.”
Lutheran SeniorLife President and CEO David Fenoglietto said at an April city planning commission meeting that future plans had not been finalized, but project documents indicated that development could include other senior living facilities and service programs, and a potential expansion of the LIFE program’s care center down the road.
City planning commission members voted to recommend that council not grant the amendment. However, the process would have included at least two more public hearings before a resolution.
According to the state’s planning code, Aliquippa would have had to submit the zoning amendment application to the Beaver County Planning Commission for a recommendation before city council members held their own hearing and approved or denied the amendment.
Frank Mancini Jr., director of planning and economic development for the county, said the commission never received VieCare’s application.
O’Donnell and Gill agreed that there is still an opportunity for development in the future, but the organization doesn’t know what at this point.
“VieCare Beaver, LLC looks forward to continuing to be a presence in the City of Aliquippa, and will seek to utilize the vacant property for another development sometime in the future,” Attorney Michael Nalli wrote in a June 17 letter to city officials on behalf of VieCare.
VieCare also still plans to develop its Green House homes, but the location is up in the air as well.
“We hope to do it in Beaver County, just not at this location at this point,” O’Donnell said.