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Hospital gets control of street as it expands.

Byline: Jack Heffernan The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - City councilors voted 4-1 Monday night to vacate two blocks of 16th Street next to McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.

The vote will allow the hospital, as part of its $90 million expansion plan, to create walking and bike paths between two parking lots now separated by the 36-foot-wide street between G and I streets.

The council also decided 4-1 Monday to waive any payment from the hospital to cover the value of the vacated land and associated street improvements.

Councilor Sheri Moore voted against both measures; Councilor Dave Ralston was absent.

Moore said she is concerned that the city will be handing over property to a for-profit hospital, suggesting instead that Mc Kenzie-Willamette could build a parking structure on its own property.

Councilors Sean VanGordon, Hillary Wylie, Marilee Woodrow and Joe Pishioneri all voted for the street vacation and waiver.

The council's decision comes as the city reviews the hospital's plan to add 145,000 square feet to its current 201,000-square-foot footprint. The plan also calls for renovating 63,000 square feet of existing space.

The council had the option of assessing the hospital for the value of the vacated street and associated improvements, or waiving the payment if it determined that "it is in the public interest."

The city staff had recommended that councilors consider waiving the payment as they said it's likely that the street's right of way was dedicated to the city in the early 20th century and that the city didn't spend public funds to obtain it. They also said they can't be sure "exactly when (and by whom) the street was initially paved and constructed to modern urban standards."

At a public hearing earlier this month, five neighbors spoke against the proposal to vacate 16th Street while five others associated with the hospital - including Chief Executive Officer Chad Campbell and trustee Steve Wildish - spoke in favor.

"Removing traffic on 16th Street will increase safety for all those accessing the hospital and make the campus environment more of a pedestrian versus a vehicular setting," Wildish said at the hearing.

Neighbors have voiced concerns about the proposal's effect on traffic.

Dr. Jacob Tom, a radiologist at the hospital who lives nearby, testified at the earlier public hearing and attended Monday night's council meeting. He said in a letter that he submitted to the council that removing 16th Street "will cut out one of the three critical arteries that tie north and south Springfield." Closing 16th Street, he added, "creates a physical barrier that divides the city core forever."

Follow Jack on Twitter @JackTHeffernan. Email jack.heffernan@registerguard.com.

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Title Annotation:Springfield Government; The Springfield council agrees to vacate a portion of 16th near McKenzie-Willamette
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 19, 2015
Words:437
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