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Fact vs. Fiction: The Truth Behind Saratoga Hospital’s Medical Office Center Plans

N E W S   R E L E A S E
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 17, 2019
 
Fact vs. Fiction: The Truth Behind Saratoga Hospital’s Medical Office Center Plans
Addressing Distortions from the Neighborhood Group
 
Medical Office Center rendering

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY, May 17, 2019—
Leaders in this city are considering 18 changes to align the Saratoga Springs zoning map with the city’s Comprehensive Plan, as required by state law. One change could clear the way for Saratoga Hospital to build a medical office center near the main hospital campus. A small group of residents in the surrounding mixed-use neighborhood opposes that zoning change—and is spreading false information about the hospital and its plans Saratoga Hospital sets the record straight on some of the neighbors’ most egregious false claims.
 
Fiction: In a news release this week, the group—which calls itself Saratoga Concerned Neighbors—said this about the proposed zone change: “… only one entity benefits…” Facts:

  • Thousands of patients of all ages—from Saratoga Springs and the surrounding region, including the Birch Run community and beyond—will benefit from this latest investment to improve the quality of care provided by Saratoga County’s only hospital.
  • Today’s patients increasingly need coordinated care from multiple specialists. Having cardiologists, oncologists, surgeons and other specialists in the same building, just up the road from the hospital, will make it easier for physicians to consult and collaborate. That improves care and outcomes.
  • The rezoning is part of a comprehensive, multiyear effort, launched by the city in 2013 and discussed and reviewed at public hearings, workshops and other meetings.

Fiction: In the same news release this week, the group claims the city seeks to rezone the Morgan Street parcel from residential to “commercial.”

Fact: The city seeks to change the zoning on the parcel from Urban Residential 1 (UR-1) to Office/Medical Business 2 (OMB-2) for “institutional use,” which includes religious, education, health, cultural and tourism services. The neighbors’ use of the term “commercial” is both false and inflammatory.

Fiction: Again in its news release, the group charges that the proposed zoning change “violates the goals of the city’s zoning law and its comprehensive plan.”

Facts: The opposite is true.

  • The city is required by state law to bring its zoning map in line with the Comprehensive Plan, which spells out the “future land use” of parcels throughout the city.
  • The Comprehensive Plan designates the land off Morgan Street as “institutional.” The rezoning of that land to OMB-2 complies with the Comprehensive Plan.

Fiction: Again, according to the neighborhood news release: “The neighborhood has been residential for generations” and “The character of the neighborhood will be permanently changed.”

Fact:

  • Saratoga Hospital has been serving the region from the Church Street location since 1913, long before most of the surrounding homes were built. The Birch Run homes and townhouses started being built 69 years later in 1982, despite neighborhood opposition.
  • The hospital—and the Birch Run development—are located in a mixed-use neighborhood, home to apartments, single-family houses, condominiums, townhouses, Saratoga Hospital, Saratoga Golf and Polo Club, a dialysis center and The Wesley senior living community. There are independent medical offices located across the street from the entrance to Birch Run. Skidmore College is nearby. All of the nonresidential properties are compatible with institutional land use.

Fiction: Again, according to the neighborhood news release, “The character of the neighborhood will be permanently changed, with a significant loss of green space; an adverse effect on wildlife …”

Facts:

  • The property is privately owned and will ultimately be developed. It will not remain as green space.
  • The City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board considered a zoning change for the hospital on this property in 2015 and issued an advisory opinion to the City Council that the rezoning for medical offices was consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. The board also issued a negative State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) declaration for the project, finding no significant adverse impacts for the construction of an 88,500-square-foot medical office building.

Fiction: The neighbors repeatedly claim that having a medical office center nearby will negatively affect their property values.

Fact: There is no evidence to support these statements. Property values in the neighborhoods surrounding Saratoga Hospital have continued to increase as the hospital has expanded.

Fiction: The neighbors’ news release cites “better alternatives.”

Fact: The hospital has explored every option, and the Morgan Street site is the smartest, most fiscally and medically responsible choice.

  • It is the last piece of undeveloped land within walking distance of Saratoga County’s only hospital. It would be poor planning—and an abdication of responsibility—if the hospital did not take steps to secure that property to meet the healthcare needs of a growing region, including residents of the Birch Run development.
  • The existing hospital campus is not an option. Space is at a premium there and must be reserved for inpatients and those who require the critical services that can best be provided in a hospital setting.
  • Cost-savings are significant. Every dollar saved is a dollar that can be spent on patient care. To build a multilevel parking garage on the hospital campus, as neighbors propose, would add between $10 million and $15 million to the project cost. That would be upwards of $15 million that could not be spent on patient care, staffing, technology and other potentially lifesaving programs and services.

Fiction: Neighbors repeatedly claim the proposed zone change was not made public.

Facts:

  • The Saratoga Springs Comprehensive Plan Committee developed the updated plan. According to the plan document, the product reflects “19 months of much dialogue and discussion including 19 public meetings, four public workshops, a 2-day open house and numerous focus groups.”
  • The City Council then discussed the plan at four workshops in 2015 before voting unanimously on June 16, 2015 to adopt the plan.
  • Here is a timeline of the process:

December 2014: The Comprehensive Plan Committee votes unanimously to redesignate this area for institutional uses, including medical office buildings.
June 2015: The City Council votes unanimously to approve the updated Comprehensive Plan.
October 2015:

    • The City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board unanimously issues a negative SEQRA declaration, finding that there are no significant environmental impacts associated with the 2015 zoning amendment that would have permitted the hospital to build an 88,500-square-foot medical office building.
    • The Planning Board issues a unanimous favorable advisory opinion, indicating that medical office use is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.

More recently:
April 2, 2019: The City Council votes unanimously to seek required advisory opinions from the Saratoga County Planning Board and City of Saratoga Springs Planning Board.
April 18, 2019: The Saratoga County Planning Board advances the project by voting 4-0 to approve the city’s request. 
Now: The Planning Board is charged with providing an advisory opinion on:

    1. Whether the proposed revision is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan
    2. Whether the proposed revision is not contrary to the general purpose and intent of the applicable zoning chapter.

“The facts speak for themselves,” said Angelo Calbone, Saratoga Hospital president and CEO. “A small group of neighboring property owners opposes construction of a medical office center on an empty parcel of land close to the main hospital campus. By their previous votes, the Comprehensive Plan Committee, the Planning Board and the City Council have unanimously supported this use of the land.

“In our view, so do the overwhelming majority of residents of Saratoga Springs,” Calbone added. “We believe they recognize that this project, like every other Saratoga Hospital undertaking, has one goal: to save lives and improve the health of our community by providing the best possible care.”

 

 
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