SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The questions around whether the city should allow Saratoga Hospital to build a controversial medical office building on land currently zoned for residential use will be back before the City Council Tuesday night.
The council will hold a public hearing -- the first of two on amendments to its unified development ordinance map -- starting at 6:30 p.m. at the the city Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Terrace.
There are numerous proposed amendments -- the most controversial being a rezoning of 16 acres at the end of Myrtle Street where it meets Morgan Street. The amendment would rezone the site from residental to medical office building to allow Saratoga Hospital to construct a three-story office building for medical staff.
The hearing will be the beginning of the review by the City Council, which must ultimately approve any changes in zoning. The city Planning Board spent several months reviewing the changes and recommended their approval in June, though with a narrower definition of medical office building than hospital officials originally wanted.
Hospital officials say the new building would allow it to consolidate affiliated doctors, now spread in rented offices around the city, in a central location. The site, just a block from the hospital, will lead to improved medical care, hospital official argue. The hospital purchased the land from a development company for $3.15 million in July.
"We expect people to speak tomorrow evening on behalf of the hospital’s interest in the medical office center, with our plans going forward all pending the City Council’s final vote on the comprehensive plan and the resulting zoning requirements," said hospital spokesman Peter Hopper.
A 2015 city comprehensive land use plan update recommended the change, but neighbors in Birch Run and other nearby residential developments say that recommendation was made largely without their knowledge. The change under consideration would make the zoning of the 16 acres consistent with the comprehensive plan recommendation.
Neighbors contend that construction of the building would harm the character of their neighborhood and have said they will take the matter to court if necessary.
The hearings, to be held Tuesday evening with a second at the Dec. 17 council meeting, are only on the changes in the zoning map, and not on the changes in the zoning law itself.
City Attorney Vincent DeLeonardis said at the Nov. 19 council meeting that a draft of the unified development ordinance should become available in early January, and ultimately, after additional reviews and public hearings, he expects to council to be in a position to make a decision in May.
If the zoning change is approved, the hospital will have the right to build, though its plans would still be subject to review and site plan approval by the city Planning Board.