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Valley Hospital ‘at a pivotal point’

>Valley Hospital ‘at a pivotal point’

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Last Updated Tuesday March 11, 2008, EDT 9:01 AMBY BOB GROVESThe Valley Hospital needs more space to handle advances in medical technology and provide better patient care, officials said Monday.

“The hospital is at a pivotal point in its history,” Audrey Meyers, Valley’s president and chief executive officer, told the Ridgewood Planning Board. “Valley must be allowed to evolve over time.”

About 200 people, including supporters and opponents of Valley’s expansion plans, attended the public hearing. Valley’s $750 million plan includes adding a parking deck and replacing two buildings with three new ones, increasing the hospital’s size by 67 percent.

Although modern surgery involves less-invasive techniques, it requires bigger equipment than can be accommodated by Valley’s existing operating rooms, Meyers said. Under the plan, Valley would add just three beds to its existing 451 beds, but the hospital wants to make all its room private in keeping with current standards of care, Meyers said.

The population of Valley’s service area is relatively stable and expected to grow by only 4 percent in the next 10 years, she said. “The demand for change at Valley will be driven by changes in technology and patient care delivery,” she said.

Opponents say the proposed 80-foot-tall hospital buildings don’t belong in the residential neighborhood because they would overshadow homes as well as Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

Answering concerns by nearby residents that the expansion would increase traffic, Meyers said that the hospital’s nine off-site facilities have already eliminated more than 673,000 car trips per year to the hospital’s main campus.

Tuesday night’s special Planning Board meeting at George Washington Middle School was its fourth public hearing on Valley’s proposal.

The next meeting will take place next Tuesday, when Concerned Residents of Ridgewood, a group that opposes the hospital’s plan, will make their arguments before the Planning Board.

In January, the residents group applied to amend the village Master Plan and its hospital zone ordinance to “limit its impact on the community and preserve the village’s residential character.” The group also asked the Village Council and the Planning Board to amend the ordinance to change the minimum distance — from the current 40 feet, to a proposed 80 feet — that hospital buildings must be set back from North Van Dien and Linwood Avenues.

“We want further clarification about whether the hospital has changed any of its positions from 12 months ago — particularly the magnitude and scale of the proposed development — following the public outcry,” Paul Gould, a member of the group, said before the meeting.

David Nicholson, chairman of the Planning Board, said the board would consider the request by the hospital and concerned residents “as legitimate and equal” and will consider them simultaneously. “The board will then make its decision whether it will consider any changes — one or the other or one of our own devising — to the ordinances,” he said. “My hope is we will make a decision by the end of April.”

E-mail: groves@northjersey.com

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