Community plans to air out misgivings over Highland Hospital expansion, zoning

March 05, 2019 08:23 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Plans to rezone Rochester's Highland Hospital, and enlarge one of its buildings, faced a potential grilling on March 14 when the proposal was scheduled for a public hearing before a Rochester City Council committee.

"There are many in the neighborhood who feel like they are moving ahead with something that is not in our best interest," declared Kerry Regan with the Highland Park Neighborhood Association who had been part of a steering committee assembled by the hospital to review its plans.

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On Feb. 29, the office of Mayor Lovely Warren sent the Rochester City Council a proposal to re-designate Highland Hospital's zoning to Planned Development District (PD) #17 to bring it into line with the city's changing zoning laws.

The change would also clear the way for the hospital's plan to enlarge its southeastern wing building from three stories to seven stories in order to accommodate a change to more private rooms.

Regan, who had lived on nearby Bellevue Drive for 18 years, said the neighborhood appreciated Highland Hospital's presence and considered it a "neighborhood hospital," but objected to what he called the facility's violation of the local "scale and character" with its tall blocky buildings in a neighborhood of modest one and two-story homes.

Adding a seven-story building at the outer edge of the hospital's nine-acre campus would be too much, he insisted.

"It's just out of scale with the neighborhood," Regan said. "That design is for something that is in an urban area that might be across from shops or something, not residences with lawns."

In a written statement, the hospital's Director of Public Relations Maureen Malone said, "The Highland team is mindful of the potential impact facility changes can have on our neighbors, and our rezoning application is the result of many years of dialog with multiple neighborhood groups. We have worked hard to accommodate their suggestions while making the improvements required of a modern health care facility."

Along with some supporters, Regan put together a PowerPoint presentation and a video detailing neighbors' preference for the Highland site, a series of "setbacks" which would mandate that buildings closest to the complex's outer perimeter be lower, with the tallest buildings only in the center.

"When my neighbor builds a fence along the edge of my house, the neighbor came and told me about it and said 'here is what the design is. Does this all look good to you?, Blah blah blah.' And we agreed this is a good fence. That's the kind of relationship we want with the hospital."

In its Feb. 11 meeting, the city's Planning Commission unanimously approved the zoning change and sent it on the city council.

A statement from Mayor Warren's office said, "The new zoning classification will guide future development of the hospital by providing a balance between the geographic constraints of the hospital campus and its presence in a residential neighborhood."

The statement also promised that any future proposals for incremental developments on the Highland Hospital campus will be subject to a rigorous site plan review process.

The zoning measures were scheduled to be taken up by the Rochester City Council's Neighborhood and Business Development Committee on March 14.  

That meeting was also scheduled to include public comment and Regan declared he and fellow community advocates would be there.  

"What we hope is that the city council will listen to us and ask the hospital to just tone it down a little bit," he said. 


Charles Molineaux

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