Ridgewood planner: Balancing act needed for decision on Valley Hospital
APRIL 3, 2014 LAST UPDATED: THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2014, 3:30 PM
BY DARIUS AMOS
With expert testimony winding down, the Ridgewood Planning Board will soon be charged with weighing the benefits of a proposed Valley Hospital expansion against any and all detriments that might arise from the project.
Hoping to guide the board before its deliberations, municipal planner Blais Brancheau on Monday offered his recommendations and a detailed comparison of the hospital zone standards established in 2010 with those currently proposed by the hospital. Valley is seeking a master plan amendment that would allow the health care facility to nearly double its hospital floor area to 900,000 square feet, largely through new construction.
Other key elements of Valley’s application include a maximum building height of 94 feet, inclusive of rooftop mechanical equipment; a limit of 1,700 on-site parking spaces; and an improvement coverage cap of 469,000 square feet.
This week, Brancheau said Valley’s proposal is “somewhat smaller” than the hospital’s 2010 plan, which was approved by the former Planning Board. He further stated that reductions seen in the new expansion plan were made partly in response to the Ridgewood Council’s 2011 resolution that explained why the governing body did not introduce the ordinance enacting the master plan changes.
The changes in the scaled-down plan, he said, should be considered when the board mulls over the entire application. Brancheau placed even heavier emphasis on the board’s analysis of the pros and cons of the potential development, but he cautioned that the criteria for evaluating the requested amendment do not contain a “hard and fast rule, in a sense that this is how you always do it.”
“It’s not a cookbook approach, and it’s not something that is precise,” he said. “It’s part heart and part science.”
“[The board’s] decision has to be reasonable, it can’t be arbitrary or capricious” and must be made upon sound information, the planner added.
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