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Little Movement on Valley Hospital Expansion Front

Mayor Paul Aronsohn says he's had informal talks with Valley Hospital's CEO as well as opposition group Concerned Residents of Ridgewood, but knows of no formal expansion plans.

Little has changed with Valley Hospital's expansion efforts since the previous village council in 2011 unanimously voted down its controversial 'Renewal' proposal that called for a doubling of the hospital's facilities.

Mayor Paul Aronsohn, questioned by residents over the last two weeks, said he's had informal talks with Valley Hospital CEO Audrey Meyers in recent months but said a range of topics were discussed. He told resident Roger Wiegand Wednesday night that he was not aware of any future expansion plans.

The mayor said he had also met with representatives of Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR), the group that has formally opposed the hospital's $750 million growth plans. CRR begrudgingly endorsed Aronsohn in the May election after he supported the candidacy of "like-minded" Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli and Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck.

"I hope we can do it in a way that is far less divisive and we can bring people together for some common ground," Aronsohn said of future formal discussions on expansion plans. "When that will be, I have absolutely no idea."

Other council members said Wednesday that they've had no contact with hospital officials.

Wiegand expressed concern there could be "backroom deals" struck beyond the public's glare. Hauck, who has been an outspoken supporter of Valley Hospital, quickly responded that it were it to happen – which it won't, she said – it would be illegal.

Valley officials did not immediately return a request for comment.

Hauck herself said she's glad it's been quiet on the Eastern front. The five-year battle has often pitted neighbor against neighbor and been an important influence on local politics.

"I'm happy there is nothing," she said. "I hope they're regrouping. In light of everything that happened I hope they take some time to figure out what the next step is. I think they're putting their energy in other directions."

After receiving the go-ahead from the planning board in 2010 in a resolution that altered the village's Master Plan, Valley Hospital formally brought its proposal to the council in fall of 2011.

The 'H-zone' ordinance would have allowed for a 100 percent increase of floor space Valley claimed would modernize the facilities to the healthcare standard of single-occupancy rooms with more modern diagnostic equipment they said is desperately needed to attract top talent and remain a viable provider of care. 

Council members at the time said there were issues with the scale of the project, a believed increase in traffic, the length and nature of construction and potential infrastructure damage to village aquifers and the foundation of hundreds of nearby homes.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter. 

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