Santa Rosa City Council OKs zoning rule changes for medical providers

Santa Rosa's City Council has passed two measures making it easier for medical service providers to open new facilities in the city.

The first adjusts zoning rules to allow more medical services without special permits, such as allowing doctors offices in shopping centers.

The change is part of the city's ongoing effort to make it easier for businesses to locate or expand in Santa Rosa, create jobs and fill vacant buildings.

The city anticipates expansions by the city's hospitals and clinics as they respond to federal health care policy changes that will result in more people having health insurance, City Planner Noah Housh said Tuesday.

"Basically, these community clinics are going to be given a fair amount of federal cash to expand the services they provide," he said.

The main change involves allowing medical clinics, doctors' offices, laboratories and veterinary clinics to be located in community shopping centers, where they currently are not allowed.

Another measure, also passed Tuesday by the council, was proposed by Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. It allows the hospital to open a medical wellness facility in the city.

Anticipating the need for additional preventive care services, the hospital envisions building a medical complex that contains both medical services and exercise facilities, Housh said.

"It's kind of like a medical-gym combination," he said.

Katy Hillenmeyer, a spokeswoman for St. Joseph Health, Sonoma County, said the hospital system is evaluating several sites in Santa Rosa for such a facility. One is land at Sotoyome and Montgomery Drives, opposite the hospital, she said. The hospital anticipates completing the facility within two years. But it wouldn't have been possible to submit an application under the old zoning guidelines.

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