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Dead on Arrival: Council Denies Valley 'H-Zone' Expansion With Resolution

Village passes resolution affirming last week's statements that the hospital "Renewal" is not right for Ridgewood

Despite another last dash , the Ridgewood Village Council effectively killed the that would have allowed the hospital to double in size in an effort to "modernize".

In a unanimous vote, the council passed a resolution that stated a wide variety of planning and zoning reasons – including expert testimony heard over the past two months – as to why Valley Hospital should not be granted the "Renewal" expansion.

The language of the resolution echoed the council's comments last week – per the resolution, it's an "over-aggressive expansion" proposal that could , , potentially harm school children nearby and perhaps most importantly, is simply too large for the 15.4-acre campus Valley sits on. There were dozens of specific reasons stated in the resolution.

Valley CEO Audrey Meyers again addressed the council and urged the elected officials to delay a vote to consider further "compromises" Valley was "willing" to make. Meyers stated that the Ridgewood Zoning Board of Adjustment approached the hospital asking for a long-term plan; the proposed "Renewal" was just that, she said, a 50-to-60-year development consideration.

Mayor Keith Killion coolly responded to Meyers by saying any modifications should go through the planning board in the future.

From the council's view, they're done with "Renewal".

The hospital has maintained its "Renewal" project is critically needed given the competitive nature of healthcare. Expert witness and medical planner , an ominous sign with so many healthcare facilities biting the dust in recent years. Single patient rooms are needed, officials said, adding that newer, larger diagnostic equipment just can't fit with current space constraints.

A $750 million expansion would have seen old buildings knocked down and new ones erected over an unknown period of time.

What happens next in what's been a fractious, divisive and expensive process is unclear.

Village officials have told Patch the ball is in the hospital's court in coming back with a more palatable proposal.

Valley, however, is staying tight-lipped on future plans.

"I think we have to take some time to evaluate all of the options that we should consider to ensure that we're here for the community," Valley spokeswoman Megan Fraser told reporters at the conclusion of the meeting.

Fraser said the council denial would not hinder Valley's financial strength, despite repeated statements from "Renewal" proponents that it could be obselete if it doesn't stay up to date with technology and attract top talent.

"Valley is in a very strong financial position," Fraser maintained. "We're fortunate because so many people chose our hospital for their care."

Asked why compromises came so late in the game, Fraser did not have a response but said it heard the community voices over the "H-Zone" hearings, which began several months ago.

Valley top brass was also dealt another blow when , which Valley Hospital and others had opposed on the grounds it would harm the financial power of existing hospitals and open up more beds when too many are already empty in Bergen County.

Deputy Mayor Tom Riche said despite the overwhelming vote, Valley is still an asset to the community.

But the plan, he said, "was probably just too big."

"We've now moved it to a new level," Riche said Tuesday night. "The hospital can obviously come back to the planning board if they want to," he said, adding he hoped it would be a "substantially reduced" plan.

Two members of the council, Mayor Keith Killion and Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh sit on the planning board, which may in the future see a new proposal.

Whatever happens next, Riche said he's certain there's one guarantee given how this issue has divided Ridgewood for half a decade.

"I think the community will continue to stay involved in this process until it reaches some conclusion. Their input is valuable and important."

Owen Riveros contributed to this report.

Ron Verdicchio November 30, 2011 at 02:59 AM
The Village Council did the right thing for the people of Ridgewood. Valley's plan was too big and too disruptive for Ridgewood. Ron Verdicchio
AMAMOM November 30, 2011 at 04:02 AM
Sanity prevailed. Thank you Village Council.
Denis Niland November 30, 2011 at 04:57 AM
buy or lease long term bergen regional
Denis Niland November 30, 2011 at 05:12 AM
Bergen Regional Hospital has accessed taxes that should be paid in the amount of 1.2 million per year. Paramus was in litigation over taxes in which the hospital currently pays 8,800.00 dollars. Not a typo. The animal control building also is a private company which pays zero taxes cause they use our building on public land, they should be paying 7,000.00 per year. (Tyco Animal Control) They currently has a contract with Paramus, which brings in animals from other towns. Paramus is loosing tax money with Bergen Regional (privately owned) and Tyco (privately owned) Bottom line is we welcome Valley Hospital if they want to pay their fair share. I think the lease for the hospital may be up within a few years. The project is too big for Ridgewood.
momofthree November 30, 2011 at 09:01 PM
Thank you Mayor and Council members for protecting our time and our village. The meetings were conducted exactly as they said they would be - civil, on schedule, with ample time for public comment, thorough cross examination of the expert testimony and some much appreciated comic relief at times! It's a shame the Planning Board process wasn't run with the same level of professionalism. They sure wasted a lot of (my) time! Now, hopefully Valley will sit down with their "neighbors" and develop a plan we can ALL live with.

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