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Saratoga Hospital Expansion Project Delayed After Recusals

Lucas Willard
Three out of five city council members discuss Saratoga Hospital expansion plans

Saratoga Hospital is hoping to build a new medical office building near its main campus in the city.

During Tuesday night's city council meeting, Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan had scheduled a discussion on the now compromised expansion plan.

But Mayor Joanne Yepsen, along with Commissioner of Accounts John Franck, recused themselves from the discussion and any future vote on the proposal due to conflicts of interests. The mayor has worked as a fundraising consultant for the hospital. Franck, who works as a CPA, has done business with homeowners' associations in the surrounding neighborhood.  

The hospital has expanded before in the neighborhood, which is close to the bustling downtown but is surrounded mainly by homes and medical offices.

Alice Smith was one of several homeowners who aired their concerns about the project Tuesday night...

"I think it has to be more realistic and look at other options, as we stated, and plan accordingly and deal more adequately with neighbors."

The neighbors concerned with the proposed Planned Unit Development amendment for the hospital project had filed a protest petition, therefore requiring the approval of four out of the five city council members. After the recusal of Yepsen and Franck, the amendment was effectively ineligible for approval.

Madigan expressed her disappointment over the roadblock.

"I believe we could have crafted a mutually official Planned Unit Development. That does not mean that I agreed with the legislation before us. I think there was some work we could have done on it but we will not have that opportunity, and I think that is unfortunate." 

Public Works Commissioner Anthony "Skip" Scirocco said he was upset over a perceived lack of communication surrounding the project that led to the confusion among residents, as well as the subsequent hamstrung approval process.

"Unfortunately, nobody benefitted from this. The neighbors didn't benefit, and the city didn't benefit. Again, it's just upsetting."

Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen also expressed his disappointment over the setback. He traced much of the confusion over the issue to the city's central planning document established in 2001 and revised last year.  

"I'm really uncomfortable with the way this all occurred and the fact that nobody here was looking out for this neighborhood when we made this change to the Comprehensive Plan map to this part of the city."

Mathiesen proposed bringing the project back to square one by considering an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan mapping and taking more public input to develop a plan moving forward. A timeline is not yet established.

Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone expressed frustration and disappointment with the situation. Calbone said there is no clear path forward for the hospital at this point in time.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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