[JK: I invited Alice Smith to be a guest writer on my blog to respond to my piece on Saratoga Hospital’s planned Medical Office Building. Alice lives in a neighborhood that will be impacted by the project. She is a person of high integrity with a strong sense of social justice]
Thank you for reaching out to me.
A couple of years ago, when the expansion plan was defeated, the neighbors were not only upset about the plan itself, but also about the fact that the hospital never communicated with the neighbors, despite telling the public and the press that they “were working closely with the neighborhood”. The whole project was kept very quiet. Then we learned about the plan and there was an uproar. The attitude of the hospital was “we’re going to build, no matter what yout think or how you are affected”.
This time around they realized that was a mistake and they are doing a tremendous public relations campaign to gain support.
The facts are still the same, except that they are being more professional in dealing with the neighbors and the public.
Beginning with the Comprehensive Plan, Chris Mathiesen is right. The part referring to this re-zoning was passed at the end of the day, after a long tedious discussion about many changes in the city, and the impact of this change was (conveniently) not even noted. Yes, it should be revised.
Second, the proposed building is for doctor’s offices, as noted above. I have no doubt it is more practical for the hospital to have them all in one building where they can collect the rent and have a much higher profit.
The fact that it costs money to meet certain standards to certify facilities for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement is just one of the expenses that the medical business has to deal with, and I’m sure they would have to reach similar standards for patients with private insurance as well. With that said, they still have to figure out how to make the highest profits. I’m sure their financial experts consideredl those calculations when they chose the site on Morgan St for their expansion .
The hospital is a big corporation that needs to make money, whether it is for profit or not-for-profit, which is fine, – who doesn’t?
However, there are other options, such as building on the hill, which might not be as cost effective, but this does not entitle them to break rules and violate the rights of neighborhood residents. The biggest assett a person has is his/her home. Some homeowners are paying high mortgages to live in a nice neighborhood and their rights should be respected.
You mention the probability that D.A.Collins could sell the land for residential development. We are not opposed to this. The area is residential and we have no problem with anyone building residences. If the purchase from multiple owners would be logistically and financially too complicated -there are financial advisers who can handle those matters.
There are many other negative issues that were previously raised by neighbors, such as the need to add sidewalks, street lighting, traffic, and flooding in the lower areas, but I won’t go into those details here.
There is a purpose for Zoning laws, and these laws should be respected -even if a big corporation such as the hospital thinks that the only way it can be more profitable is by rezoning. Other options should be considered more seriously, such as building on the hill, but they have not been willing to even consider it and are telling the public there is no other way this can be done. They will turn down possible every alternative.
John, the fact that the hospital is now reaching out to the community makes their proposal more appealing, but this does not change the reality that they are stepping on the rights of residents who don’t have the money or the political power to fight this, and I do hope that our elected officials can see clearly. By the way, patients will not be saving money, they will be paying the same price for medical care.
Lastly, regardless of whether any corporation wants to build a mall, or a roller coaster, a condo, or a hospital (profit or non-profit)- this does not change the fact that certain rights should still be protected.
Although there has been a big change in their public relations approach, it is appreciated, but civility does not mean “meet in the middle”.
Will end here for now. I’m sure there will be a lot more about this in the near future, and I appreciate that you look at both sides of the issue.