Saratoga Hospital has designs for a new medical office complex near its main campus in Saratoga Springs. After a similar effort failed in 2016, the hospital pitched a new concept to the city’s planning board Thursday night.
In February 2016, a zoning change to allow for a 75,000-square foot office complex failed before the five-member city council after two members recused themselves from the vote. Without a four-member supermajority, the zoning amendment went down and Saratoga Hospital was sent back to the drawing board.
In 2019, Saratoga Hospital pushed for a new zoning change under the city’s Unified Development Ordinance, which updated zoning at several areas across the city to fit into the Saratoga Springs Comprehensive Plan.
To make a long story short, the hospital was successful in getting a parcel adjacent to its main campus rezoned to allow for a medical office building in the draft UDO. Then COVID hit. Fourteen months later, representatives of the hospital appeared before the planning board Thursday night.
Attorney Matt Jones explained that Saratoga Hospital has been seeking for years to bring physicians and other staff closer to the main hospital.
“The hospital spends in excess of $800,000 a year now, with rental of sites in and around the community for physicians and staff who could be in closer proximity to the hospital,” said Jones.
In the sketch plan presented to the planning board is a slightly smaller medical office building. The new zoning for the property allows for a height no greater than 40 feet.
Mike Ingersoll of the LA Group explained that the new plan is to build the complex into a grade on the property to allow for three floors. Two floors would be visible on one side of the building, three on the other end.
Developing the property near a residential year has garnered opposition from neighbors for years. On one side of the property is the Birch Run neighborhood, on the other, a golf course. Ingersoll said the design is pitched with viewsheds in mind.
“We know that within the Birch Run property there’s open views to the driveway to the site. We know this bank of townhomes has been accustomed to views of this property with nothing there. So we need to respect that, we want to respect that.”
Several phases of development are being conceptualized to allow for the construction of additional buildings including a conference center. Space is also being considered to be left open with room for community gardens and outdoor amenities.
Speaking to the hospital representatives, Planning Board member Todd Fabozzi asked the hospital to consider a more concentrated design, possibly moving parking underground to allow for tighter development. He had the past concerns of neighbors in his mind.
“I’m going to use the term NIMBYism and, whether it’s appropriate or not in this case, I’ve seen it in lots of other cases in which most people don’t want new development around them and get worked up about that and think they have rights to the views they don’t own and all that… and it seems to me the hospital is a critical infrastructure and the most you can get out of the area is what you should strive for,” said Fabozzi.
There was only brief public comment offered after the presentation Thursday. The Planning Board allowed attorney Claudia Braymer, who has previously represented neighbors of proposed developments in Saratoga Springs, to share her concerns.
Braymer wants the Planning Board to require full environmental review of the concept to consider potential impacts on the land, geology, and other factors.
“The traffic and parking, noise and lights, the impacts to views, the impacts to community character, the impacts to open space, as well as potential impacts to historical resources. And to its credit, the hospital is starting to review these impacts, but it is incumbent upon the Planning Board to require a full environmental impact statement by issuing a positive declaration under SEQR,” said Braymer.
Braymer said neighbors would offer more comments during the upcoming site plan review process.