South Nassau Communities Hospital is set to appear before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals at a special meeting on July 9 in the hope of moving forward with plans to build a $40 million medical arts pavilion on the former Long Beach Medical Center campus.
The hospital — which acquired the property in 2014 following a bankruptcy sale after Hurricane Sandy — said the campus, on East Bay Drive, is currently zoned for residential use and would have to be rezoned to accommodate a new medical facility.
The city’s Building Department denied South Nassau’s request for a building permit on June 13, saying that its application proposed a pavilion on property that formerly housed medical offices for outpatient services.
South Nassau officials said that because the new facility would be located on a portion of the property that once housed medical offices that were torn down — and because the new facility would be built outside the actual footprint of the hospital — a variance was required in order to obtain a permit.
“The zoning application is part of our required legal process to move the Medical Arts Pavilion project forward so we can begin construction,” South Nassau officials said in a statement. “The area in question has been used for hospital and medical offices for decades, so this is really a ministerial application to bring the zoning up, as allowed by the City of Long Beach, to match the historical use of the property.”
An attorney for the zoning board did not respond to an email requesting comment.
Hospital officials said that South Nassau remains committed to moving forward with the construction of the 15,000-square-foot, elevated one-story medical pavilion, near a freestanding emergency department built in 2015 that would continue to operate 24 hours a day and accept ambulances through the 911 system.
Hospital officials said that the medical pavilion would include 18 exam rooms and two procedure rooms that would “bring new ambulatory services to Long Beach, including internal medicine, imaging services, OB/GYN, podiatry, oncology, podiatry, gastrointestinal, pediatrics, geriatrics and cardiology services.”
South Nassau’s project is being built as part of an alternative-use plan after South Nassau reached an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to accept $154 million in disaster relief funds originally earmarked for LBMC after Sandy to redevelop health care services in Long Beach and to expand South Nassau’s Oceanside campus.
Initial plans for the property called for the construction of a new medical facility with an emergency room, with the freestanding emergency department serving as a temporary facility. The medical arts pavilion was first proposed in 2015, and was slated to be housed in what remains of the medical center’s main and west wings following a major reconstruction of the buildings. But last year, hospital officials said that the costs associated with that plan would far exceed the $40 million in FEMA funds, mainly because it would have to be elevated to meet FEMA height requirements — to 23 feet above sea level, above the 500-year flood plain — and meet the requirements of state public health law governing hospital operations.
By building the medical pavilion separate from the emergency department, officials said, South Nassau would not be bound by public health law requirement and could elevate it only above the 100-year flood plain.
Officials also said that more than 38,000 patients have been treated in the emergency department since 2015, and that most patients are treated and released without having to be transferred to Oceanside.
“Once the project is completed, South Nassau will have more than 30,000 square feet of space to provide medical services on the barrier island, including the existing emergency department, the new pavilion and a third, recently renovated internal medicine practice of Dr. Lee Weitzman on West Park Avenue with whom South Nassau recently partnered,” South Nassau said. “We are committed to improving the availability of medical services on the barrier island, and this is one more step toward reaching that goal.”