Construction of a Level 2 Hospital saddled with zoning and barangay concerns

Construction of a Level 2 Hospital saddled with zoning and barangay concerns

The proposed construction of a Level 2 Hospital at Upper Phil-Am Barangay by the United Baguio Doctor’s Hospital and Medical Center (UBDHMC) is currently put on hold pending the city government’s action on the request of the UBDHMC to reclassify the area from R-1 (residential zone) to C-2 (commercial zone).

Pursuant to the city’s zoning ordinance (Ordinance Numbered 63, Series of 2021), the construction of commercial structures including hospitals is allowed only in commercial zones.

The Baguio City Council invited City Planning and Development Coordinator Donna Tabangin, representatives of the UBDHMC, and the barangay officials to its regular session last Monday to discuss the matter in aid of legislation.

Tabangin said that in cases of reclassification of zones, a Local Zoning Review Committee (LZRC) needs to be institutionalized by the mayor. It will be the LZRC that will assess the UBDHMC’s request.

One of the functions of the LZRC, as stated in Ordinance 63-2021, is to recommend to the city council necessary legislative amendments and to the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) the needed changes in the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) as a result of the review conducted.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda stated that requesting for a zoning exemption might be more convenient and acceptable than requesting for the reclassification of the entire area.

For years, the Local Zoning Board on Adjustment and Appeals (LZBAA) had been granting zoning exemptions to individuals appealing for the construction of commercial buildings in non-commercial zones.

However, in February 2021, the city council imposed a moratorium prohibiting the LZBAA from granting zoning exemptions in order to curb the unabated construction of commercial buildings in the city’s residential zones.

Incidentally, the moratorium was lifted by the council last Monday because of the appeal of some residents who are reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lifting of the moratorium will allow the LZBAA to resume accepting applications for an exemption from the zoning ordinance.

Should the UBDHMC request for a zoning exemption instead of a zone reclassification, it will be the LZBAA that will assess the said request and not the LZRC.

Tabangin said the reclassification of the area or the grant of a zoning exemption to pave the way for the construction of the proposed hospital will, either way, change the “urban fabric” of the said residential zone.

“This proposed project will have a major impact on the physical features of the area,” she stressed.

The city planner further underscored that the effects of the proposed development on the traffic flow, the general welfare of the people, and the natural environment in the area need to be taken into consideration.

She suggested that the request of the UBDHMC be referred to the executive department to be further discussed in a technical manner in order to determine the pros and cons of the proposed project.

“We are in need of more hospitals and medical facilities in the city considering that there is an ongoing pandemic. However, we also need to consider other factors such as environmental protection, proper urban planning, social acceptability, and the like,” she stated.

Councilor Michael Lawana cautioned that allowing the project to push through might set a precedent. According to him, it will encourage other individuals to propose more developments in the area.

Arch. Cathy Carunongan who was commissioned by the UBDHMC said the proposed hospital with a 100-bed capacity will be equipped with surgical facilities, delivery suites, and dialysis units. It will also have an outpatient department and an emergency department.

Carunongan said the site is perfect for the proposed project as it is adjacent to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC).

“Not only will it benefit the community during this pandemic, but it will also change the landscape of the area. It will be a modern and iconic building in a more or less 2,000 square-meter lot,” Carunongan told the council.

The architect explained they will incorporate into the plan the provision of parking spaces for the facility.

Dr. Domingo Solimen, UBDHMC president, also said they will undertake road expansion and road improvement so as to provide better access to the facility.

UBDHMC was able to secure a permit to construct from the Department of Health (DOH). It also received an affidavit of non-objection from Phil-Am Barangay together with a barangay resolution endorsing the proposed project.

However, Punong Barangay Sarah Mina claimed there were irregularities in the issuance of the affidavit of non-objection and the barangay resolution. She said she was not involved by other barangay officials in issuing the said documents and that she and three kagawads were excluded as signatories.

Contrary to the claim of UBDHMC, Mina and Kagawad Susan Dominguez asserted that there was no proper public consultation held to solicit the comments and approval of the residents in the area. Dominguez further claimed that some residents are against the proposed project.

The representatives of UBDHMC expressed a willingness to consult (again) the concerned residents to gauge the social acceptability of the project. –Jordan G. Habbiling