Few Changes Apparent in New Valley Expansion Plan
Plans show the hospital's expansion aims as smaller overall but not as much as some would have expected. The hospital maintains it will address various concerns.
Valley Hospital's second take at an expansion proposal isn't as ambitious as its controversial first offering, but it does not much appear much different either.
According to preliminary plans submitted to the Ridgewood Planning Board on Feb. 25, the hospital has scaled down its proposal from 1.17 million square feet to 910,000 square feet of hospital floor space, still with 454 single-patient rooms.
(Ed note: A copy of the plan submitted has been attached to the right of this article.)
"It's up to the planning board to decide if it's enough of a compromise, enough of a reduction," said Pete McKenna, head of opposition group Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR). "But it doesn't seem immaterially different to me. It's still about 70-80 percent bigger than existing. It's come down a little bit."
Added Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh: "My opinion is I was expecting more of a change to the structure of the building. It appeared the elevations were very similar to the last plan."
Valley has maintained it needs to expand to keep with the changes in the ultra-competitive health care field. Larger single patient rooms are a must, as is the need for diagnostic equipment and greater story heights to accommodate mechanical needs.
It's not clear based on the first draft submitted where the reductions are but the plan is likely to elicit strong feelings from the surrounding neighborhood, where two schools and dozens of homes press against Valley's borders.
Valley Hospital spokeswoman Megan Fraser said not to take the first plans submitted at face value.
"When we have the opportunity to present the details of the modified plan
and to demonstrate how the changes we have made will positively impact
the community and our neighbors – changes not immediately evident in
the proposed Master Plan Amendment – we hope that our neighbors will
feel as we do, that we have worked hard to address many important
issues," she wrote to Patch in an email.
"At the Planning Board meeting next month, we will have the opportunity to share more of the details of how we have addressed key issues – including construction, traffic and the size of the project – with the community. We look forward to that opportunity."
In its application, the hospital argued it has relocated aspects of its operation outside the H-Zone district and even outside the village.
"However, there are reasonable limits to the hospital's ability to relocate operations outside the hospital district while maintaining a critical mass of in-patient functions at the site," the hospital said.
Ridgewood's planning board in 2010 voted to pass an amendment to the Master Plan, allowing for an "H-Zone". But the village council in November of 2011 unanimously voted against its attached ordinance. There were concerns with intensity of use, damage to infrastructure, concerns with impact to the neighborhood, traffic and length of construction.
Phase 1 of the previously plan would have lasted almost seven years. It's unclear how long construction for the present application is expected to last. Plans submitted do not detail how the hospital plans to address underground construction, a hot-button issued during "Renewal".
The first meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 11 at the planning board.
In dismissing the lawsuit CRR filed against Valley Hospital, Judge Alexander Carver said he wanted the planning board to vote on a new plan by June. The change to the Master Plan remained on the books until the lawsuit dismissal, mutually agreed to by the hospital, planning board and CRR.
There are some notable changes in the new Master Plan amendment change request submitted.
As it did the previous application, Valley wants 2,000 parking spaces above ground. The new Phillips garage would be five stories, one story higher than the previous proposal. However, said Fraser, it will be the same height.
Lot coverage has also been bumped up to 70 percent, a 10 percent change over "Renewal". And the hospital has increased the setbacks on the section abutting Benjamin Franklin Middle School from 40 feet to 75 feet, though setbacks generally stagger based on the building heights parallel to them.
"My hope is that this go around, everyone will get out there – pro or con – voice their opinions and let the chips fall where they may," Walsh said. "It's a different planning board."
It's a different council, too. Should the hospital's amendment request be granted by the planning board, they'd have to receive three out of four votes on the council.
Walsh, Mayor Paul Aronsohn and Councilman Tom Riche all opposed the ordinance in Nov. 2011. Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck, a former president of the Valley Hospital Auxiliary, has been a supporter of expansion efforts. Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli has recused himself.
Clarification: The proposed parking garage will increase a story to 5 stories, though Valley says it will be the same height as the previous proposal.
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