The Montgomery County board of appeals ruled Oct. 20 that Suburban Hospital can proceed with its controversial expansion plans, according to

The $230 million hospital expansion project includes adding 300,000 square feet to the hospital, as well as a nearly 1,200-space garage.

However, the board also ruled that the hospital only may remove less than half of the 23 houses it hoped to demolish for the expansion.

Suburban Hospital owns the houses, and their removal has caused controversy between the hospital and its neighbors, who believe demolishing the houses negatively will affect the community.

The removals the board approved depend on the abandonment of one block of Lincoln Street, which must be approved by the Montgomery County Council. If the abandonment is approved, the board recommended removal of the houses on Lincoln Street and two on Southwick Street.

On Oct. 20, the board discussed the potential effects of removing the houses. Some argued the neighbors needed to prove they were being affected “above and beyond” effects typically associated with living near a hospital. Others argued that demolishing the houses would affect the neighborhood’s sense of community.

However, all five board members voted that the expansion could move forward. In the meantime, Suburban Hospital will need to seek variances to handle setback and lot coverage issues that emerged because some of the houses will not be demolished.

On the day of the ruling, the hospital’s officials said they were pleased.

“What we have been about from the beginning is making sure we have the kind of health care facility needed to meet the needs of the community in the future, and we have that kind of facility that was approved today,” says Leslie Ford Weber, a Suburban Hospital spokesperson.