A final legal step has been taken that paves the way for Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington to convert a house it owns near National Institutes of Health into a residence for visiting family members and caregivers of patients.
By a unanimous vote of its nine members, the Montgomery County Council July 28 decided to amend the Montgomery County Zoning Ordinance and pass a charitable institutions – residential support amendment (ZTA 15-08).
Audrey Siegel, executive director of Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, announced the long-awaited council vote to supporters via e-mail last night.
The amendment’s passage came after “months of behind-the-scenes work,” she wrote.
The revised amendment, now known as Ordinance 18-05, will allow BCGW, a registered nonprofit, to open and operate a future bikur cholim house, or residential support facility, across the street from NIH.
Bikur Cholim purchased the house, at 9014 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, in the spring for $940,000, according to public real estate records. The organization’s intent was, if legal permission came through, to convert it into such a residence.
Many of the patients who come to National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center for cutting-edge treatments for serious illnesses need to stay for months or return for follow-up. They often travel long distances to the Clinical Center, including from Israel, for treatment and may have to leave family members behind.
In the past, Bikur Cholim arranged for community members to provide home hospitality on a limited basis to family members and caregivers of NIH patients. The purchase of the house and passage of the amendment will mean family members and caregivers can be accommodated nearby more extensively and consistently.
The amendment, which applies to other charitable institutions as well, was introduced by Council president George Leventhal, who was also its lead sponsor.
Passage looked likely during a July 14 County Council hearing in Rockville, when eight of the council members cosponsored the Amendment and there were no public statements in opposition.
William Kominers of the law firm of Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda, represented Bikur Cholim.
Bikur Cholim has launched a fundraising campaign, with sponsorship and dedication opportunities available, to help defray costs of the purchase and conversion of the house into a residential support facility. Supporters are also being asked to sponsor parlor meetings.
In her e-mail, Siegel expressed appreciation to the Council and its support of BCGW’s mission.
“We’re looking forward to working together to make sure all the sick and caregivers in our community are fully embraced,” Siegel wrote.