Schenectady County

Planning Commission to weigh Ellis parking garage plan

The city will hold what could be the final meeting on the controversial Ellis Hospital parking garag

The city will hold what could be the final meeting on the controversial Ellis Hospital parking garage proposal Wednesday.

The Planning Commission will take up the issue at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. It also will hear from the public on the topic and will accept letters from those who cannot be in attendance.

The issue is whether the five-story garage would be reasonable at the proposed location, in an upscale residential neighborhood at the edge of the Ellis property.

The Planning Commission can consider the aesthetics of the proposal, as well as the exits and entrances, which have been criticized for using residential side roads.

The commission can also consider lighting, landscaping and noise, particularly in how it affects adjacent homeowners.

Some residents are planning to go to the meeting to continue to lodge objections against the garage.

The architects won a zoning waiver for the tall building by allowing for barriers to reduce light and sound while also moving the garage farther away from the street so that the shadow would not fall on houses across the street.

But many nearby residents said they were not convinced the barriers would do enough to reduce light and sound. Hospital officials last month said they would look for other garages that showcase the kinds of barriers proposed for the hospital garage, but they could not provide any before the Planning Commission meeting.

Residents also questioned whether the hospital actually needed 390 parking spaces.

The city had approved a three-story parking garage with 212 spaces. That was more than enough, according to the requirements cited by hospital officials. They said they need four to six parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of space at the Emergency Department.

The hospital is expanding the Emergency Department by 28,000 square feet, which would mean 112 to 168 additional spaces under the hospital’s formula.

But hospital officials argued that above the Emergency Department they would eventually build new doctors’ offices, and those doctors would need spaces for their patients.

They also said they anticipate an increase in Emergency Department usage, particularly when the former St. Clare’s ER is closed. That building will become an urgent care center.

With more patients, they said, they will someday need more spaces.

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