The Unfortunate History Of The Hospital’s Expansion

ImageOfField
View Of FIeld Where Project Will Go
Hospital Addition
Rendering of Proposed Building

[Note that they did not show the very large parking lot for the project]

Google Expansion
Aerial View Of Site

At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting Saratoga Hospital did an update of its proposal to build doctors’ offices behind Birch Run.  Procedurally it was a continuation of the public hearing regarding their application to rezone the property from residential to institutional.

This is a link to the presentation here.  The presentation starts at 2:20.

Their attorney, Matt Jones, presented a revised plan that involved a very modest downsizing of the project.  The hospital had intended to build an initial structure and then add to it at a later date.  The original structure was to be 75,000 square feet.  The second phase was to bring the total to 88,500 square feet.  Mr. Jones told the Council that the hospital had dropped plans for the expansion.  There is a formula for how many parking spaces are required based on the square footage of this kind of project so the number of spaces was also very modestly reduced from approximately 300 cars to approximately 275 cars (this number included the potential bonus that the Planning Board can award).

The CEO of the hospital, Angelo Carbone, spoke to the Council about the critical need for office space for the doctors who will be associated with the hospital.  He argued that they had settled on this site primarily for its proximity to the hospital because a prime concern was being close enough so that the doctors could walk from their offices to the hospital.

He noted that they had been quite aware of the resistance that this new building would generate and following the release of their plans they had been in regular communication with the affected neighborhood and were trying to address the neighbors’ concerns.

This last point was of particular interest to me.   The new Comprehensive Plan includes changing the area in question from residential to institutional.  The thing that I had been wondering about is how was this change incorporated into the city’s Comprehensive Plan without major controversy? 

To put this in context imagine how you would feel if you had purchased a home in residential area with green space adjacent to it.  You knew that the green space was zoned for residential so you expected that the lovely fields behind your home would someday have homes on them.  Then one day you learned that the local hospital planned to build a major facility right by your home with a parking lot with two hundred and seventy-five spaces.  There would be bright security lighting.  There would be additional traffic.  Of course, there would also be an enormous facility where the fields you had enjoyed had been.

One of the clearest presentations of the neighbors’ concerns was by Jennifer Leidig.  You can find her comments here at 36:30.

How then to explain the fact that the incorporation of this change in the city’s Comprehensive Plan had somehow escaped you and the rest of the public’s attention? 

The Comprehensive Plan had a torturous life.  Scott Johnson had appointed half of its members.  Among them were Charles Waite (president of Adirondack Trust), Sonny Bonacio (developer), and Todd Shimkus (Chamber of Commerce). The division in the make up of the committee was most evident in  the divide over the issue of development in the city’s green belt.  Agreement on this issue was basically impossible.  It produced a rancorous process.  The city had originally hired a consultant to work with the committee who appeared to use her position whenever possible to promote the development community’s interests.  Those of you who have sat through these kinds of meetings are familiar with this kind of scenario.

On November 17, 2014, the committee held it’s second to last meeting.  This was the last meeting at which any business was actually transacted.   As it happens, this was the meeting in which Kevin Ronayne, VP for operations/facilities at Saratoga Hospital spoke to the committee during the public comment period regarding the hospital’s expansion plans.  Bear in mind that this committee had been meeting for many, many months. 

Strangely, there are no minutes for this meeting.  I have laboriously scanned through the video but I could find no discussion of whether the area should be designated institutional.  In fact, I could find no specific vote on this.

It is possible that at a previous meeting this issue was discussed.  One of the people who served on the committee thinks there was some kind of discussion at some point of revising a map that authorized the change.

What is indisputable is that if there was any discussion it did not explore the gravity of the proposed change nor was there any input from the residents of the neighborhood that would be affected by this new land use designation.  Whether or not you agree that the hospital should be allowed to build its facility there was something terribly wrong that this very controversial change could be slipped into the Comprehensive Plan without a public discussion of the issue.

I spoke to Matt Jones about what the hospital was planning in terms of visually buffering the project.  He indicated that the hospital was planning to build a large berm and placing trees on it.  I asked if this would totally hide the proposed building.  He said it would.

As an interesting historical note, the land in question was part of Gideon Putnam’s original farm.

 

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6 thoughts on “The Unfortunate History Of The Hospital’s Expansion”

  1. Hi John, Did you check the City Council minutes to see if there was a discussion and vote on the insertion of this change into the Comp Plan? Does anyone from the Comp Plan Committee remember the decision making process around this? Someone must remember. Just some thoughts…

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  2. John, I am a neighbor living directly across the street from the proposed building.The neighbor on my right has been bedridden for years and is unable to voice her opposition to this plan. The next neighbor lives around the corner from me and is in her 80’s and is terrified by the prospect of this building being built.They have asked me to represent them. I’m out of town but with them in mind after watching the meeting last night The one phrase that I heard being voiced was “the hospital is a good neighbor ” I DONT THINK SO. Their decisions are being made strictly out of greed not need. I want to thank you for taking an interest in this and all of the other projects that you have been involved in. Your very incite full and do your due diligence . I enjoy your post’s very much. Thanks again, Jack Despart

    Jack Despart Premier Sotheby’s International Realty C:239-273-7931

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  3. Such a bunch of crap!!..As a commentator at the last presentation, I was asked to provide my name on a list of concerned citizens, so as to be put in ” the loop ” and be advised on future mtgs.( the City was remorseful in it’s lack of notification corordination)…and I was not!!..and l’am now in Florida…in my comments at the last mtg…I questioned the approval process for the ” Blob ” expanding into a R-1 district??..a comprehensive plan??..and from what Mr. Kaufman is suggesting not far off…The whole thing is a scam!!..This thing is an insider all the way…and an attempt at avoiding SPOT ZONING!!..The SEQR analysis by the Planning Board is beyond belief!!..it should have been a long form detailed analysis resulting in a positive impact declaration…the Planning Board members involved in this complicity should be asked to resign and their advisers dismissed…The State should be made aware of how their SEQR Review Process is just a formality that a bagman lawyer can easily check off as”no impact”…was it 2 ft to bedrock or 6 ft.??..are neighborhoods and their kids decimated by traffic and artificial lighting noise,not impacted??..come on!!..will the retention water collected from one side of the site and ” gradually ” released on the other side of the site not have an impact on future development there and below on the golf course??..more water on bedrock= more water!!..does the scale of a building almost the length of a football field…but within the height allowed for a residence(1/6th it’s length) not seem preposterous!!..where do these people get off??..Your City Needs To Clean House!!..jb

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  4. Thank you for your comments. You are correct-the Zoning change was never brought to the community. I always believed that surrounding property owners were to be notified if a Zoning change was requested.

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  5. This won’t be popular, but…. (and this is taken from my personal FB page):

    Truthfully, I’m am really sick of seeing people jump to arms over every little proposal in this city. The hospital is the perfect example of this. EVERYONE knows the hospital desperately needs to expand, and everyone KNOWS hospitals DO expand along with their communities.

    Folks, I grew up on Geyser Rd. I can remember when there was all of 5 houses from Rt. 50 to the airport (and a dirt road passed the airport to boot – the address was ‘RR#2″ – for ‘rural route’). Now there are 3 mini-malls, two Stewart’s shops within 1000 ft. of each other (and a Cumby Farms), two parks, 5 pizza places, 2 Chinese takeouts, 3 bars, 4 dentists, and who knows what else to go along with about 2500 homes now. And people are b*tching about one goddamn building that will help the hospital serve the community better – and maybe save a life or two? Seriously??

    Yea – I know what the zoning is out there. And quite honestly I don’t give a rat’s @$$ either. That area never should have been zoned that way in the first place. This is NOT a casino. This is NOT an expansion that threatens that people will lose their home either. It is an expansion that is REALLY needed by our community hospital to serve us all better. Times change – we need to change with it.

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