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The settlement states that all three parties agree that the original Master Plan amendment is no longer valid.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

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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