This irresponsible change would compromise the quality of life and property values for all residential neighbors.
Saratoga Hospital issued a news release last week (May 19, 2019) seeking to defend its request to rezone our residential neighborhood as a commercial office park so that it can build a 75,000-sqare-foot, three-story tall office building with parking for 300 cars.
The hospital’s news release acknowledged that the hospital is seeking to build on and pave the “last piece of undeveloped land” – the last green space – in our West Side neighborhood. It asserts that it needs to build there “to improve the quality of care provided by Saratoga County’s only hospital” and to make it “easier for physicians to consult and collaborate” in a building “just up the road from the hospital.”
Convenience for physicians is a laudable goal, but it does not justify the proposed rezoning nor the loss of green space nor other adverse effects on the neighborhood. Indeed, if convenience and collaboration are the hospital’s goals, both can be far more effectively achieved by putting the office building right on the hospital’s existing campus.
The hospital insists it cannot build its offices on its campus because “space is at a premium there” and a new building on Morgan Street would be less expensive. The reality is the hospital has room to build on its campus; it simply chooses not to do so. The hospital prefers the Morgan Street property because, as it acknowledged last week, it has a deal to buy the property from D.A. Collins Companies.
The hospital says it can save money by building on Morgan Street. As it saves money, however, it shifts to the residential neighbors the practical and financial burdens of reduced property values, reduced resale values, increased traffic, noise, and light, and loss of privacy and economic security. This burden-shift is no justification to rezone the property, quite the opposite. Protection of residential neighborhoods is a cornerstone of the Saratoga Springs community development plan.
The hospital asserts that its project deserves approval because its mission is “to save lives and improve the health of our community by providing the best possible care.” But the reality is no health care services will be rendered in this building, unless the hospital has plans it has failed to disclose to the City of Saratoga Springs and the community. It is proposing an office building. Think copiers and Keurigs, not IVs.
The hospital argues that the concerns of its residential neighbors should be dismissed because “(t)housands 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” – an investment in … office space. There’s no doubt Saratoga Hospital benefits the region, but the burden of its massive office sprawl falls disproportionately and unfairly on one small neighborhood where the zoning does not permit massive office buildings.
The hospital argues it’s entitled to rezoning because it was established first, in 1913. In other words, hospital leaders have had 106 years – plenty of time – to properly plan for future expansion and yet the only solution they see is building a massive office building on the last green space in a long-established residential neighborhood where the zoning does not allow their plan. The leaders of Saratoga Hospital undersell themselves: They are much smarter, much better planners, much more creative thinkers than that.
The hospital claims its office building will fit in well with nearby homes, apartments, condominiums, townhouses, health care facilities, a senior living community, and a lovely golf course. But none of the other uses requires parking for 300 cars. Indeed, what this tour of the neighborhood underscores is that the hospital office project, in size and scope, would have the greatest adverse impact on the neighborhood, permanently changing the lives of the people who live nearby. And the community knows only about half of what the hospital has in mind: Its proposed office building would consume eight acres, but the hospital is seeking to have 17 acres rezoned.
The hospital objects to our description of the office building as a commercial project. The fact is the hospital is seeking to change the zoning from “Urban Residential 1 (UR-1) to Office/Medical Business 2 (OMB-2). OMB-2 is a Commercial Zoning District under the City of Saratoga Springs Zoning Ordinance Chapter 2 (Table 1).
Among the richest fictions the hospital seeks to perpetuate is that this entire enterprise was the city’s idea. Its statement says: ‘’The city seeks to change the zoning…” The change in zoning was requested by the hospital and has been aggressively pushed by the hospital. The hospital previously sought city approval for the zoning change, but its request failed to muster the supermajority of City Council votes necessary for approval. At the hospital’s request, the City Council then modified the City’s Comprehensive Plan to lay the groundwork for the change the zoning from Residential to Commercial.
Finally, Saratoga Hospital has sought to belittle and demean us, its residential neighbors, as a small group of self-interested people. While the hospital pursues its own financial and institutional goals, we’re defending our homes and our neighborhood. We are not enemies of Saratoga Hospital; we simply oppose its proposal for a massive office complex. Its disrespectful treatment of a group of neighbors, patients, donors and friends is unworthy of a community institution as good and valuable as Saratoga Hospital.
Saratoga Hospital should build its offices on its own campus.
HISTORIC SARATOGA SPRINGS RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD THREATENED
BY PROPOSED REZONING FOR SARATOGA HOSPITAL
A proposed change in the zoning of an historic West Side neighborhood to allow for a massive Saratoga Hospital expansion project is causing controversy in Saratoga Springs.
The Hospital proposes to build a three-story, 75,000-square-foot office building, larger than a football field, with parking for 300 cars, near Saratoga Springs’ founder Gideon Putnam’s original home in an area that has been residential for generations. The city is considering changing the zoning of the neighborhood to Commercial to allow the project.
The Saratoga Springs Planning Board is scheduled to meet Thursday, May 16, 2019, to consider whether to recommend approval of the zoning change to the City Council.
“The Saratoga Springs City Council is planning to rezone our quiet, beautiful residential neighborhood as Commercial and turn it into a suburban office park that will upend the lives of the people who have lived here for many years,” said Dave Evans, a leader of Saratoga Neighbors.
The group has made the following points to the Saratoga Springs Planning Board:
“Beautiful neighborhoods are one of the reasons Saratoga Springs is one of the most desirable communities in the Capital Region, and we must fight to protect them,” said Mr. Evans. “Our neighborhood is one of the special places that makes Saratoga Springs the city in the country.”
Mr. Evans noted that many residents in the neighborhood are seniors who invested their retirement savings in their homes and fear they will lose their investment. Other residents are working families who have invested their life savings and hope to sell their homes someday.
“When they bought these homes and for all the years they’ve lived here, the people of this neighborhood relied in good faith on the City of Saratoga Springs’ determination that the area was residential. They believed that the city would respect and uphold the residential zoning. Because Saratoga Hospital is pressing the city to approve this zoning change, we now stand to suffer an unnecessary and unjustified loss of privacy, peace of mind and property value. When the interests of powerful institutions and private citizens clash, a local government’s first duty should be to protect the more vulnerable party, its citizens.”
Saratoga Hospital previously sought city approval for the zoning change, and its request failed to muster the supermajority of City Council votes necessary for approval. At Saratoga Hospital’s request, the City Council then modified the City’s Comprehensive Plan to lay the groundwork for the change the zoning from Residential to Commercial. Now, the Planning Board is being asked to recommend approval of this zoning change as a preliminary step to final City Council approval.
“For all the good Saratoga Hospital does for our community and for all the essential services it provides, it is not entitled to a zoning change that deprives others of the peaceful enjoyment of their property – especially when the hospital is growing and has a responsibility to have identified better alternatives to accommodate its own growth,’’ Mr. Evans said.
 The Comprehensive Plan establishes as a primary objective that “all development and rehabilitation be respectful of the original community character.” (Page 48) This proposal destroys the original community character. The Zoning Ordinance sets as one of its goals “the provision of privacy for families and the maximum of residential areas. (Zoning Ordinance at 1.3(B)(3). This proposal deprives families of privacy and destroys a residential neighborhood.
 “The Conversation on Saratoga Springs’ Proposed Zoning Map, Our Perspective,” February 28, 2019, Angelo G. Calbone, President and CEO, Saratoga Hospital.
Claudia Braymer, Esq: “We will continue to advocate for the City Council to reject the zoning change to the residential neighborhood. We hope that the council will press pause on this process instead of pushing forward with the hospital’s agenda.”
AT THE 5/1 PLANNING MEETING, CITY ATTORNEY, VINCE DELEONARDIS TRIES TO TELL THE BOARD WHAT THEIR JOB IS:
"Your job is not to go back and find out why they did or did not do anything"
*A 75,000 square-foot building, expandable by 13,000 sf for a total of 88,000 sf.
*West and South Elevations of 53 feet.
*North elevation of 42 feet.
*Pavement for 300 parking spaces.
For perspective, this is One West Ave, on the Corner of Church St. (a 100% commercially zoned area) .This medical building is 63,000 Square Feet, much smaller than the proposed 75,000 to 88,000 Square Foot building proposed in the residential neighborhood.
This is an aerial view of the proposed Saratoga Hospital Medical building, "Zone G", which is clearly bordered by residential neighborhoods. While we understand and appreciate the importance of the hospital to the community, this is an irresponsible zoning change. The residential neighborhoods and their residents must take priority with this rezoning. The Hospital has other viable expansion options but claims they would be more costly.
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