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Valley Hospital Back With New Expansion Plan

Planning board expected to begin hearings on a new master plan amendment request in March after a lawsuit was settled between the board, hospital and an opposition group.

Valley Hospital is expected to return to the Ridgewood Planning Board with a new expansion proposal in March after the settlement of a lawsuit a neighborhood opposition group filed against the board and hospital.

In an order of dismissal dated Feb. 14, Superior Court Judge Alexander Carver III called for two planning board hearings per month – with testimony and public comments – on a new expansion proposal beginning on March 11, 2013.

The three parties – the Ridgewood Planning Board, Valley Hospital and Concerned Residents of Ridgewood (CRR) – agreed to set a target for a vote on a new zoning amendment to the Master Plan before the planning board reorganizes in July.

(A PDF copy of Carver's order, obtained by Patch at Bergen County Superior Court, is attached at right.)

The settlement states that all three parties agree that the original Master Plan amendment is no longer valid.

"The objective of our lawsuit was to force this issue back to the planning board," CRR chairman Peter McKenna told Patch Friday night. "We felt the Master Plan amendment that was passed in June of 2010 [by the planning board] was flawed and our lawsuit was intended to remove that from the books and records of Ridgewood."

The Ridgewood hospital's previous expansion plan, dubbed 'Renewal', was passed 6-1 by the planning board, but an accompanying ordinance was unanimously defeated by the previous village council in November 2011. That council found substantive and significant problems with the expansion plan.

'Renewal' called for the hospital to double its square footage while creating single-occupancy-only rooms at a cost of $750 million.

It's unclear what scale the latest proposal will be, though multiple village sources told Patch it is expected to be reduced from the 'Renewal' model, with more uses conducted off-site.

No official plans have yet been submitted to the planning board, Board Secretary Jane Wondergem said Friday. The hospital must submit plans by March 1 if it is to appear on March 11.

Hospital officials and Valley's legal counsel, Charles Collins, could not be reached for comment Friday night.

Testimony previously entered in the arduous three-plus years of planning board hearings won't be entirely wiped out, according to the settlement.

"We've agreed not to rehash some of the issues," McKenna said Friday. "It will be a new process and we hope the new planning board will consider the broader impacts that this kind of expansion; that they'll consider the plan relative to a residential community that the hospital sits in."

Specifically, he said, intensity of use was not fully addressed in the previous hearings. It should be fully vetted by the planning board come springtime, he said.

The news of Valley's imminent return is somewhat surprising.

The planning board just lost two members and is weighing the merits of new zoning that could forever change the character of the village downtown. Four proposed multi-family housing projects have been offered for board consideration.

Planning board Chairman Charles Nalbantian declined comment on the matter until the entire board had discussed the settlement with counsel Gail Price on Feb. 28.

It is, however, a very different board than the one that passed the "H-Zone" amendment in 2010.

"I don't assume they come in with preconceived notions about this. I don't assume anything about them," McKenna said. "I do know they have a lot on their plate right now and they're things that are going to alter the look and feel of Ridgewood for decades to come. It's their perogative to determine what issues they can and can't take on at any point in time."

Should the planning board again vote in favor of a re-zoning to the Master Plan, an ordinance to be voted on by the Ridgewood Village Council would need to be drafted.

Like the planning board, the council also has a different look.

Three of the five sitting council members voted against the amendment in November of 2010.

But there are other interesting dynamics at play.

CRR chafed when Mayor Paul Aronsohn supported Gwenn Hauck and Albert Pucciarelli in the trio's successful spring election. Both Hauck and Pucciarelli have supported expansion efforts.

Pucciarelli, also a member of the planning board, has said he'll recuse himself both as a planning board and council member.

Councilman Tom Riche also voted in favor of the planning board amendment in 2010 but then against the ordinance that followed in 2011.

“Concerned Residents of Ridgewood as an organization, its leadership as individuals do not have an issue with Valley Hospital and we are grateful for their presence in the Village," McKenna said in a news release Saturday. "Our issue is with the massive expansion that was previously proposed and the unintended impacts that an expansion of this size and scale could have on the residential character of the Village we love so much.”

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.

Jeanette L February 26, 2013 at 04:35 AM
Robin, on who's part are you saying that? The residents of Ridgewood or Valley, because if you mean the residents you would be wrong. We love having Valley the size it is in Ridgewood! We just don't want a behemoth structure near a school and residents. If you mean Valley, you would be right. They feel whatever they need we should accept what they want to do and be happy with it.
Ellie Gruber February 26, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Before there are any more comments, all of us must read this weeks issue of Time magazine, "Bitter Pill" is the front cover; the report takes up the entire issue. It covers such items as the myth of non profit hospitals, the markups, the need to expand, expand, expand, buying doctors' practices. The article, which takes up the whole magazine is eye opening. Lets talk proven facts, the billing is out of sight, the hospital does not care about zoning restrictions, It matters not what neighbors think. This article is called the "Silent Spring" of health care; it is factual, it will change the way we all look at our costs and the justifications used for expansion and the need for more equipment and single beds. Read the story, either in print or online before we go forward with any discussions about "needs" of hospitals for better health care.
paul smith February 26, 2013 at 05:32 PM
I read the article. It's an indictment on the system as is. The corruption of greed that infests the industry via lobbyists and their concubine public servants is unreal. Administrators earning more than physicians is particularly galling, but that's the way of our nation these days.
John A. Unglert February 26, 2013 at 05:41 PM
I am from Wyckoff. Lived here all my life. And I am no where near sure where I would stand on this. In one respect I am for some expansion and changes at Valley. In another I am against such a huge expansion. I am somewhat against the single bed room idea. I spent 2 months in B301, a private room and went bonkers since most of the time I was not able to walk around. This occured twice in 1 year, along with a number of other stays of a week. I am for the semi-private since I was an orthopedic patient the company is good. I can the see other side, moving and ortho bed around is NOT an easy thing to do. Then I go back to the early 50' s when my first broken arm was treated in the Phillips wing which was the only wing at the time. I wonder how much Valley regrets giving half of the property to the school board ? And I don't live nearby. So I never see or hear the traffic. Nor am I subject to the construction traffic. In that case though I ahve to say, "you knew what you were buying when you made the purchase." Not unlike buy a home at the end of a runway and then complaining. All hospitals must grow and evolve. They change. BUT maybe Ridgewood does not need a huge complex ? Well, maybe we all need to wait and see what is proposed.
Linda McNamara February 26, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Thank you Ellie for the recommendation. Quite an article and so relevant. I think it was Dsniel Patrick Moynihan who said," You are entitled to your opinion but not your own facts." To Mr. Unglert, I have had the same reaction during hospital stays. I like the semi private room. Lying in bed can get pretty boring without the interaction of another patient. Maybe I just lucked out. All were pleasant and they motivated me to get out of there as soon as possible!
longtimer66 February 26, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Excellent article and glad she brought it up. I'm about halfway through reading it online and will read the rest ASAP. There are many points in the Time piece that are hugely relevant to Valley, I'd say, and haven't even read it all yet. Great find and timely too!
RdgwdGRock February 26, 2013 at 08:42 PM
c'mon folks, you can get this up to 100 comments. reading these posts is like the colonoscopy I was given at Valley
paul smith February 26, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Hopefully you didn't suffer brain damage. Wait until the plan comes out. The patch will be on overload.The equivalent of at least 3 colonoscopies.
Jeanette L February 26, 2013 at 10:50 PM
Thank you so much Ellie for the info. on the Time's hospital issue! Audrey Meyers must be hyperventilating and praying that Ridgewood residents don't read it. I have already posted the link on Facebook and will be emailing the link to my friends. I have read a few pages already, but I am so angry and it becomes mind-numbing to read it all at once. But I will keep going at it. I agree that only all of the posters should read it, but all of America should read it too. It is beyond eyeopening.
Jeanette L February 26, 2013 at 10:51 PM
Read the article John and your views will change.
RdgwdGRock February 27, 2013 at 02:34 AM
paul smith - nope, wouldn't want to suffer your type of trauma
momofthree February 27, 2013 at 05:34 AM
Lisa, why is it that only Ridgewood residents are entitled to a hospital 2 minutes from their home? Valley didn't care that the residents of Harrington Park, Old Tappan and Norwood wanted a hospital in THEIR community. In fact, Valley spent millions trying to stop those people from having that same privilege. Hmmmmm....
paul smith February 27, 2013 at 01:08 PM
good retort. touche.
Andrew J February 27, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Thanks for pointing out the article. http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/
Gloria Johnson February 28, 2013 at 11:53 AM
The Time Magazine article is a real eye opener. I wonder what Valley's chargemaster list would tell us and what the salaries are in this non tax paying, "non profit" organization..
disgusted February 28, 2013 at 04:10 PM
It's't about time ( no pun intended ) the media of any type brought this to light. I belive far too many of our politicians of all levels are too deeply invested in the healtcare industry to take a stand against it. Especially with regards to it's non-profit status.
Lisa Fitzmaurice March 01, 2013 at 05:15 PM
To Marla Sherman, The people in Ridgewood are not entitled to anything. We pay big bucks in taxes to live here, AND pay tons and tons in health insurance to go to Valley. But, I have lived here for 20 years with Valley 2 miles away from my home, and I thank God for the proximity to my home and Valley. Thank you for your comment though, you validated mine by pointing out your loss of your local hospital and the impact it had on those towns nearest to Pascack Valley, i.e. what do you do now that your hospital closed and how far are you willing to travel and hope you make it alive. Thank you again for your comment, you did mine a great service to this blog. Also, what was the reason Pascack closed its doors? I cannot remember, but I seem to recall could not afford to stay open. But I may be wrong.
Jeanette L March 01, 2013 at 11:12 PM
We pay big buck to live here because the school system is funded by our taxes! Get your facts straight. What Marla was saying what makes us feel that we deserve to have our hospital, and that the towns surrounding Pascack Valley don't deserve to have it reopen. Valley and Englewood, among others, tried to prevent that from happening. And Marla is NOT advocating closing Valley. That's the bogus attitude Valley and supporters are trying to pass off as scare tactics so to allow Valley to do what they want. And Pascack Valley closed its doors because of mismanagement involving the overpriced renovations that Pascack Valley undertook before they closed. Got that info. from attending meetings in Washington Township. Could happen here too. And you are wrong about that fact. Maybe you should attend meetings like I did for 4 years so that you could get the real facts.
Jeanette L March 01, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Exactly. What people don't understand is that Valley is a drain because it pays NO real estate taxes in this town. Pascack Valley paid taxes to Westwood before it closed, and it will pay at least a million dollars to the town when it reopens. Wonder how that money could help this town if Valley paid us taxes. I suspect it would help our school system a great deal so we wouldn't have to cut programs. But that's the last thing Valley really wants to do, is help our kids. Years ago they wanted to put an underground garage under playing fields. Wonder where the carbon monoxide would be vented to. And they suggested that our children cross No. Van Dien to the other side opposite BF when the dump trucks and other vehicles would enter and leave the driveways the children cross now to get to school. Instead of finding a safer way for our kids to get to school. Or to cross the driveways.
Lisa Fitzmaurice March 02, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Wow, Jeanette. You are very passionate about this issue,and for that I applaud you. However, mismanagement of overpriced renovations means in laymans terms, they did not have the funds to stay open. And, I am well aware of where my taxes r going, having put 2 children thru our school system---so my facts r all in tact. That word entitlement, is not nice since the luxury of great school system and local hospital comes with a price that not everyone in Bergen county is willing to undertake
Mike Kender March 02, 2013 at 03:10 AM
Jeannette's comments about Valley being a drain are incorrect. She may be passionate, but that doesn't make her accurate. Valley pays taxes on properties that it owns around the town, even if it doesn't pay PILOT on the hospital property. It also pays for its utilities, including water, sewer and trash disposal. If you are going to argue against the hospital expansion, at least use facts that are correct.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Once again you are wrong Lisa! The facts are that they overspent on renovations! I got that from Westwood officials at a meeting in Westwood. Maybe if you had bothered to attend meetings you would actually know what's going on! And I am passionate because of the outright arrogance, and strong arm tactics of Valley in trying to get what they want. And because of the ignorance of so many residents to what is happening to our town.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:22 AM
And entitlement is an assumption that something is deserved for an elite few. The reality is that the residents of this town pay enough in property taxes, and by the way, did you know that houses have gone down in value in this town? That was in the Ridgewood News and that assessments on certain houses have gone down. So let's let Valley double in size, add 4 developments and then lets see what the new price of living here will be and who be willing to pay it. My feeling is that you wouldn't like the changes and the new residents better than what we have now.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:24 AM
Really? What properties around town? Do you even have one fact to tell you how much Valley owes this town in taxes if they actually paid them? It's a considerable amount of money. And our town could use it. Our schools have continually had to cut programs, look at the tree service, where we have to outsource maintenance, etc.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:25 AM
And it's much more than what they pay for utilities!
Lisa Fitzmaurice March 02, 2013 at 04:48 AM
Jeanette, u r a little behind on ur fact checking so it seems. RE post on feb 25 about Valley and employee parking. Their employees do have to park at the facility behind Fairway (Cheel)?in Paramus and catch the shuttle that Valley provides to the hospital on VanDien. Have a relative that works their, so I know this first hand. It sounds like u really are not a fan of Valley, so why on earth would u go there for a test, to visit or anything at all for that matter? As u state many other great hospitals at least 15 to 20 miles away, possible sit in traffic for an hour, pay that lovely bridge toll $12? and then pay to park too. Have at it. I love valley and the convenience and quality of care it gives, end of story.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:55 AM
Lisa I am not a fan of ignorance, greed, arrogance, strong arming and fake PR. However, that is the administration, if you knew your facts, we are not attacking the staff. They are not the problem. They don't make the decision. The board and the administration make the final decisions. And like many ignorant people, you believe everything Valley says, and you seem to keep ignoring the fact, that we don't want it to move. The truth is don't want it to double!
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:56 AM
And if you knew anything, this only started because of the overflow of traffic from Pascack Valley's patients and because Valley was preparing for the renovation they assumed they would be allowed to do.
Lisa Fitzmaurice March 02, 2013 at 05:23 AM
Jeannette, all of ur arguments were credible until u called me stupid and ignorant. Neither of which I am. But, all my points have been said and some people agreed with me but because of ur rude remarks I will say no more because I don't care to converse with people that resort to bad behavior or bullying to get their way.
Jeanette L March 02, 2013 at 04:19 PM
Ignorant of the facts, yes. I did not call you stupid. Funny you saw it that way. Ignorance is not knowing the facts, not being stupid. I am not a bully but I am sick and tired of people who don't make themselves aware of what is going on in their town and then proceed to have an opinion. I sat through years of meetings and made myself informed, before I came to a decision. I sat through two different renovations, one in the 90's and the last one. You made assumptions about me before about my feelings for Valley that I found insulting. That is hypocritical and unfounded. That's what is so wrong about people in this town. Not wanting to know the whole story and only seeing one side. And after more than 4 years everyone in this town should have figured out what the truth was instead of still being in the dark.

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