SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Neighbors of a proposed Saratoga Hospital medical office building are planning to speak out at a city Planning Board meeting on Thursday.
The Planning Board, which will meet at 6 p.m. that night at the city Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue, is considering a zoning map amendment that would allow commercial development on the site at Morgan and Myrtle streets, which is now zoned for residential development and borders residential areas.
"The Saratoga Springs Planning Board 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 the opponents, who are calling themselves Saratoga Concerned Neighbors.
The Planning Board will make a recommendation to the City Council on whether to approve the map change, but city planning officials have already said that no decision will be made at Thursday's meeting.
The hospital is seeking to build on a 16-acre site that is currently vacant land. It is owned by D.A. Collins, the Wilton-based construction company.
Hospital officials are pushing aggressively for the change, which could clear the way for it to apply for construction of a three-story, 75,000-square-foot or more office building on the site, which is about a block from the hospital. Plans call for 300 parking spaces.
"Since 1913, long before there were homeowners, apartment buildings, other medical offices, and a senior living complex became a part of our neighborhood, Saratoga Hospital has been taking care of our community. It is unfortunate that a small group of residents are hoping to undermine the greater good we provide," hospital President Angelo G. Calbone said in a statement on Monday.
Doctors, hospital staff and other supporters have already spoken in support of the plans at City Council meetings, and the hospital also made a presentation at the April 18 meeting of the Saratoga County Planning Board, which at the meeting recommended that the city approve the proposed change.
The project's supports say that the medical staff have offices at several locations around the city, and the office building could both allow consolidation and bring the offices closer to the hospital for quick response during emergencies. Also, having offices in one location will make it easier for doctors to discuss cases that involve multiple specialists, they argue.
"The move allows us to control costs," Calbone said. "Most importantly, these offices would introduce new levels of collaboration between different practices and physicians in the new facility. For those in the business of saving lives and taking care of people’s health, this is how good medicine is practiced."
The zoning map change is part of a comprehensive revision of the city's zoning map to come into compliance with the city's 2015 comprehensive land use plan. Changing the zoning map would allow the project to proceed under the zoning code.
The hospital also pushed for the project in 2015-2016, seeking to move forward under a different zoning change procedure -- a planned development district. The plans didn't move forward then, though, because residents petitioned against it and it lacked the City Council votes to win approval.
One council member announced his opposition, and two members -- including Mayor Joanne Yepsen, who is no longer in office -- recused themselves from voting, meaning the project didn't have enough votes for approval.
Evans said the property is surrounded on all sides by residential development, and a large commercial building would significantly change the neighborhood's character while the benefit to the hospital would be mostly doctors' convenience.
"We're not anti-hospital at all," he said. "We're just saying there are other options."