Urgent care facilities aren’t enough to meet the health care needs of the growing and aging population of southern Saratoga County, local officials say.
That’s why after nearly a decade, Boni Enterprises, LLC, is still trying to build a health care campus with a hospital-like facility at its core on more than 80 acres of land in Halfmoon. No one will call it a hospital, though — not after the state’s Berger Commission made hospital closures and consolidations law in 2008 and not after the state Department of Health made it clear that brand-new hospitals are unlikely to be approved.
The 225,000-square-foot facility the developer is seeking to build remains intentionally vague and undefined. Ideally, though, it would be a state-of-the-art health care facility complete with emergency room and a suite of services ranging from ambulatory surgery and oncology to bone and joint care and physical therapy. Other facilities on campus would include medical office buildings, nursing homes and a biomedical research facility.
“Nobody has made a real commitment to this community,” said Kevin Dailey, an attorney who represents Boni Enterprises on the project and a former Clifton Park town supervisor. “The hospital that actually makes the commitment to the community will dominate the market. But you can’t do that with just an urgent care facility, which, in my opinion, is a joke.”
Talks of a health care campus centered around a hospital began in 2004. The project was announced the next year for an 81-acre tract of land on Route 146, about 1.3 miles east of Route 9. Initially, officials close to the project confirmed Albany Medical Center was interested in running the facility, but the hospital later denied any involvement. In 2011, St. Peter’s Hospital announced it would build the medical campus with primary and outpatient services in place of a hospital. Soon after, St. Peter’s merged with Seton Health and Northeast Health, and the newly merged hospital system eventually dropped the plan altogether.
Now, the developer wants to revive the project. The need for more health care services has only grown, Dailey said, despite the opening of two urgent care facilities in nearby Clifton Park and Malta in the past two years. Town officials agree, citing a continuing need for more health care services in the community.
Last week, Boni Enterprises submitted an application to the town Planning Board seeking an amendment to the planned development district that was approved in 2008. It’s asking the town to approve a broader set of uses for the district, including multiple assisted-living facilities, medical facilities, doctors’ offices and a biomedical research facility. The board asked for more information and an updated traffic study before making a recommendation to the Town Board on the project.
“They want to leave open the potential for a hospital at this site down the road,” said Town Planner Richard Harris.
The campus would create several hundred well-paying jobs and would serve nearly 112,000 residents in the area, according to the application. A preliminary concept plan calls for an eight-lot subdivision to accommodate buildings and parking.
“It is undetermined at this time what the exact size, footprint, configuration and appearance of the buildings will be,” the application reads. “However, an overall architectural concept/theme will be established for the project on a lot-by-lot basis, with additional site plan review by the Planning Board.”
The town requires the developer to include some sort of public benefit in the project. In addition to the expanded health care services it would provide, the project would include the installation of a trail system and outdoor recreational amenities to meet the requirement.
In addition to state regulatory hurdles, Dailey said Boni Enterprises faced a tough time moving the project forward under previous town supervisor Mindy Wormuth, who resigned last year following months of scandal. The economy tanking didn’t help matters, he added.
Current town Supervisor Kevin Tollison said despite all the setbacks, the town remains adamant that this site be used for health care facilities. The new facilities in Clifton Park and Malta serve the community well, he said, but the population and its health care needs continue to grow at a rapid pace.
“The state, at this point, may say there is not a sufficient need for a hospital,” he said. “But perhaps in the future there will be. What we really want is the most advanced and modern health care system here. If you look at the location, it’s close to the main thoroughfares in the region, so I do think it’s a good spot for a facility.”
As soon as the town approves changes to the planned development district, Boni Enterprises will begin marketing the property to nonprofit and for-profit hospital systems and health care providers.
An 8.5-acre sliver of the site has already been approved for a $30 million assisted-living facility for residents dealing with memory loss. Pike Co. of Rochester proposed the project last year after the campus proposal had been stalled for some time. Boni Enterprises is currently under contract to sell the parcel so the project can move forward, Dailey said.