Council crawling towards approval of Swedish Cherry Hill expansion

The City Council is slowly moving towards approving the new Master Institution Master Plan for the Swedish Health System Cherry Hill campus, over the objections of neighbors, but not before making a few changes of their own.

This morning the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee had a further discussion as part of the quasi-judicial hearing that has been on their agenda for several weeks. City staff has prepared a draft findings, conclusions and decision based upon input from Council members, which largely leaves intact the hearing examiner’s decision, but tweaks a few things.

First, it tightens language around approved uses, ensuring that space on campus may not be rented or leased for activities that aren’t “functionally integrated or substantially related” to Swedish’s specialty center, the primary use of the campus. The city’s Law Department is still reviewing that language, as it apparently a difficult standard to enforce in practice.

Second, it turns the thumb-screws on Swedish’s past underwhelming efforts to reduce single-occupancy vehicle traffic to and from the campus. Currently traffic is around 50% single-occupancy vehicles, and the hearing examiner set a new standard of 38% over 25 years. The Council, based on complaints from the neighbors, set a new target of 32% in 18 years, in 2% steps every two years. The conditions set by the Council in its draft require the target to be met before building permits may be issued. Further, Council member O’Brien wants to see consistent, cumulative progress over the time, so that Swedish doesn’t simply ignore it for 15 years then implement a massive change just before applying for a permit.

Third,  Swedish must commit to long-term efforts to mitigate stormwater flooding issues (a major issue for neighbors) not only by implementing low-impact development methodologies but by submitting a plan for ongoing maintenance and operation of those elements.

In today’s meeting, Council member Herbold also stated that she wanted to see some further clarifications on the building limits along the west edge of the campus, focusing on the height, bulk and scale of the buildings and not just the height limit.

The committee will be working through edits over the next two weeks and take up the matter again at its April 19th meeting, most likely voting at that time.