SARATOGA SPRINGS — A group of neighbors is asking a state Supreme Court judge to overturn the Saratoga Springs City Council’s approval of a zoning change that could allow Saratoga Hospital to build a new medical office building about a block from the hospital.
The lawsuit, which was filed with the Saratoga County clerk’s office in Ballston Spa on May 27, not only seeks to have the council’s 4-1 vote from last Dec. 23 that approved the zoning map change declared “arbitrary and capricious, irrational, and affected by error of law,” but also asks the court to reverse it.
Among other contentions, the five neighbors, who are represented by Glens Falls attorney Claudia Braymer, say the council did not take a required “hard look” at possible environmental impacts before declaring that the zoning change would not have significant environmental impacts.
“The parameters of that potential (Saratoga Hospital) expansion project are sufficiently known so that the potential adverse environmental impacts should have been identified and considered by the City Council in making its determination of significance,” the neighbors argue in court papers.
The City Council’s position in December was that the zoning change from residential to office medical business didn’t have a direct environmental impact, and any environmental impacts from the project the hospital is expected to propose would be addressed by the city Planning Board.
The hospital has been looking for years to get approval for an 80,000-square-foot medical building that would be built on 18 acres of vacant land at Myrtle and Morgan streets, bordering residential neighborhoods. The hospital purchased the land last summer.
By approving the zoning change, any project Saratoga Hospital proposes for that parcel of land will not need to go back before the City Council, however, it will require site plan review by the city’s Planning Board.
As of Thursday evening, Saratoga Springs City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis had not responded to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
During the public hearings the City Council held before the December vote, residents of the neighboring residential areas spoke out against the change, while hospital officials and their supporters said that the proposed building, which would be built less than 1,000 feet from the hospital, is needed to consolidate off-site medical staff in one location.
While hospital officials originally wanted to add the land to the hospital’s planned development district, that effort was blocked in 2016 after two City Council members, including then-mayor Joanne Yepsen, recused themselves from voting because of potential conflicts.
Neighborhood opponents believe the office building will harm the character of the neighborhood and potentially decrease their property values, as well as increase traffic.
“Claiming that (environmental resources) would not be impacted at all demonstrates that the City Council failed in its duty to identify and analyze the relevant potential adverse environmental impacts of the zoning map changes,” the lawsuit argues.