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An artist’s rendering of a 40-bed stroke and heart attack inpatient rehabilitation facility proposed at the corner of Highway 26 and Kettering Street on Janesville’s north side.

JANESVILLE

Nothing emerged in a Tuesday meeting of the Janesville Plan Commission that would prevent a developer from building a 40-bed stroke and heart attack rehabilitation hospital at one of the busiest traffic intersections on Janesville’s northeast end.

The commission unanimously OK’d a conditional-use request Monday for a planned inpatient rehab center at Kettering Street and Milton Avenue, just north of the busy diverging diamond interchange at Highway 26 and Interstate 90/39.

There, landowner Ryan Brothers Co. intends to sell about 5 acres of a 20-acre farm field to Encompass Health Corp., a private health care company that would build the rehab hospital.

The conditional-use approval does not require action by the city council. It came through Monday along with the plan commission approving an exception to allow Encompass to build about 45 feet from the east side of Highway 26—about twice as close to a major controlled state highway as would typically be allowed.

The changes came despite some concerns from commission members that the project doesn’t have fully fleshed-out plans for where multiple entries and exits could be placed.

An official from Encompass said Monday company could break ground in the spring and that the facility could open its doors sometime in 2024.

Traffic concerns

The diverging diamond interchange near which Encompass hopes to build at Milton Avenue and Kettering Street handles a flow of about 30,000 vehicles a day, according to state traffic counts.

Kettering Street itself, where the rehab facility would be built, averages about 11,300 vehicles a day, according to state data. That's about twice as busy as Deerfield Drive, the divided four-lane road that Kettering Street turns into at Rotamer Road and winds from Sam's Club and Walmart to Pine Tree Plaza and Highway 14.

One neighbor in a residential subdivision across the road urged the city not to allow the new development to funnel traffic onto Rotamer Road, an already-busy thoroughfare that carries traffic to and from residential areas and nearby, big-box retail centers.

Future plans

City of Janesville senior planner Brian Schweigl said Ryan Brothers proposes to sell 5 acres on the southeast corner of the property to Encompass but will hold onto an adjacent 15 acres for possible future development. The city’s traffic study suggests a second phase of development might bring a 50-unit “assisted living” facility and “190 units” of multifamily housing.

A lawyer for Ryan Brothers did not elaborate Monday on possible future developments near the facility.

An Encompass official said the company would serve up to 40 patients who are recovering from heart attacks and strokes. The facility would run rehab services 12 hours a day and offer inpatient services for an average of about 13 days per patient, the official said.

About 75 people would work there initially, but it would eventually employ more than 100 workers. Encompass said employees at the center will help patients recover speech, movement, swallowing and other motor skills that can be affected by strokes or heart attacks.

Encompass runs 144 similar facilities around the country.

Ryan Brothers had asked the city to shift slightly to the southeast a buffer area on the property that is intended to separate the developed parcel. The land, surrounded by residential subdivisions to the north, south and east, has been zoned for business since 1998.

The development would generate 120 more vehicle trips per day, according to a traffic study conducted by a consultant to the city of Janesville. That volume would include non-emergency ambulance transport of patients from local hospitals to the rehab facility.

If the remaining 15 acres were developed for business or commercial use, the same study showed a larger increase in traffic—an extra 1,000 vehicle trips a day or more.

Plan commission member and city council president Douglas Marklein said the immediate development of a 40-bed hospital doesn’t seem to presage immediate traffic problems. He said the development might make future use of adjacent parcels tricky for another developer.

“I’d hate to be the next one who comes in at that (remaining) out lot.” He said “traffic needs” for a future developer could make further zoning for continued development a challenge.

Marklein also sought, and the commission approved, to waive a requirement that the developer plant trees on a 200-foot-long berm planned along Kettering Street as a buffer between the rehab center and existing neighborhoods along to the east and north.

He said he thinks it would be better to seed trees on about half the span adjacent to the clinic but hold off planting on the rest of it until the landowner decides how to develop the surrounding property. The city also intends to wait for further possible development at the 20-acre spot before installation of sidewalks.

Plan commission member Kathy Voskuil said she was concerned a possible access road to the rehab facility off Rotamer Road is shown on designs to have no street lights.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation plans to upgrade Humes Road next year but plans to give the city local control of timing on the stoplights at the Highway 26 and I-90/39 interchange.

Plan commission officials said that would help the city properly time the lights, which would have an effect on how traffic flows near the planned Encompass facility.

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