SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Neighbors fighting Saratoga Hospital's plans for a medical office building near their homes are reacting angrily to word the hospital has bought the land where the project would be built.
The hospital announced Thursday it had bought the 16-acre site at Myrtle and Morgan streets, even though a needed zoning change has yet to receive city approval.
"Saratoga Hospital has chosen to move ahead in what appears to be an attempt to pressure the city into approving both the zoning change and the project despite strenuous neighborhood objections and significant negative impacts to a historic residential neighborhood," said Dave Evans, a spokesman for concerned neighbors.
"This arrogant, high-handed conduct is not what one would expect from an institution that serves our community," he added in a statement issued on behalf of the neighbors.
The hospital bought the vacant land from D.A. Collins Companies of Wilton for $3.15 million, a below-market price reflecting the Collins family's support for the hospital, hospital officials said. The deal closed on Wednesday.
"Ever since we decided to sell the property, we hoped it would go to Saratoga Hospital," David Collins said in a statement provided by the hospital. "We believe in the work of the hospital and its essential, unique role in ensuring the health of Saratoga."
The land is near the hospital but borders residential neighborhoods, and a number of residents have spoken out against the hospital's plans, which they believe will undermine the character of their neighborhood and reduce property values.
The plans got a boost last week, however, when the Saratoga Springs Planning Board recommended a series of zoning changes around the city, including changing the designation of the 16-acre property from residential to medical/institutional.
In the wake of that decision, neighbors said they're prepared to go to court if necessary to stop the plan.
The zoning change must be approved by the City Council, which has yet to take up the matter. If the zoning change is approved, the hospital will have the right to build, subject to approval of the details by the Planning Board.
"We realize that the final decision on the zoning has not been made, but we could not pass on this opportunity," Saratoga Hospital President and CEO Angelo Calbone said. "It's not unusual for organizations to buy land in anticipation of future needs, especially if the property is strategically located. Our hope is, ultimately, we will have a medical office center on the land."
Hospital officials say having many of its doctors located in a single building near the hospital will improve case collaborations and quicken response during medical emergencies.
The hospital and D.A. Collins, a commercial construction company, have had an understanding about the land since at least 2015, when the plans were first announced, but a different effort to change the zoning at that time failed.
"D.A. Collins has been more than patient, and it is unreasonable for us to expect them to delay the sale and forego potential business opportunities any longer," said Theresa Skaine, chairwoman of the hospital's Board of Trustees.