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Neighbors Continue Opposition To Saratoga Hospital Expansion

Signs on a car outside a Saratoga Springs Planning Board meeting
Lucas Willard
Signs on a car opposed to a Saratoga Hospital expansion, file photo

Discussion is continuing in Saratoga Springs on a series of planned zoning amendments. As WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports, neighbors are continuing to speak out against one change that would allow for an expansion at the city’s hospital.

For years, Saratoga Hospital has been seeking a change to city zoning laws to allow the construction of a medical office complex in what is today classified as a residential area. It’s just one zoning update included in the city’s so-called Unified Development Ordinance, which is a series of changes designed to place areas of the city in compliance with its 2015 Comprehensive Plan.

In April, the zoning map changes were referred by the city council to county and city planning boards. Saratoga Springs city attorney Vince DeLeonardis gave a brief timeline of what happened next at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.

“On April 18th, the county planning board issued a unanimous, favorable opinion, and on June 24th, after hearing from the public and deliberating over three separate meetings, the city planning board issued an advisory opinion finding that 17 of the 18 proposed changes were, in fact, consistent to the Comprehensive Plan, and not contrary to the purpose and general intent of our zoning ordinance,” said DeLeonardis.

The change the city planning board took concern with was not the zone in the vicinity of the main Saratoga Hospital campus.

But it was the hospital that got most of the attention from residents Tuesday.

Some groaned when Michael Toohey, Vice Chair of the Saratoga Hospital Board of Trustees, advocated for the project at the microphone.

“I would ask you all to consider the benefits that can be derived by allowing this to happen and the relatively minor impact that would have in relation to..”

“Please, there’s no comments,” interjected Mayor Meg Kelly.

“…the impacts it would have in relation to an apartment house or other type of dense development that would go into this property,” said Toohey.

Neighbor Alice Smith outlined several of the concerns shared among those who live near the site of the planned development.

“Rezoning of residential area for large business causes higher volume of traffic on streets that were designed for this. More noise, lighting, flooding of lower areas, and destruction of green space,” said Smith.

Attorney Claudia Braymer, who previously represented neighbors opposed to an expansion at Shelters of Saratoga on the city’s west side, is also representing several of those who live in close proximity to the hospital. Braymer asked the city council to dig more into the potential impacts of a hospital expansion.

“We look forward to your public discussion of these matters and we urge you to require the preparation of an environmental impact statement to carefully, systematically and professionally analyze these changes. We believe that once you do it will become clear that the negative impacts of a 17-acre commercial office complex are too great to be accepted by this council,” said Braymer.

Saratoga Hospital has expanded in recent years – with offices on the other side of Exit 15 in Wilton, a planned complex in Queensbury, and south off Exit 12 in the Town of Malta.

But hospital staff and officials expressed the importance of allowing the hospital to bring more of its services closer to its main campus.

Saratoga Hospital CEO Angelo Calbone spoke close to the end of Tuesday’s public hearing.

“This is important. And if you don’t live in this business every day, understand the rules, the regulations, and the stressors that are coming at us, it may not be that obvious,” said Calbone.

Another public hearing on the proposed zoning changes is set for the next regularly scheduled city council meeting Dec. 17th.

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