P&Z Watch: Proposed Greenwich Hospital Smilow Cancer Center Returns, Slimmed Down 25%

Back at the end of February Greenwich Hospital appeared before the Planning & Zoning Commission with a pre-application for a new Smilow Cancer Center in the area of Lafayette and Lake Ave. At the time the proposal was for a 3-story 80,000 sq ft, building, and the feedback was, in a nutshell, too big.

The idea of pre-application is to seek guidance, thoughts, suggestions and concerns from the commission before the formal process begins.

Since February the hospital has a new CEO, Diane Kelly, who took over from Normal Roth who retired.

About 53% of the 12,750 in-patients treated each year reside in Westchester County, and the remaining 47% are overwhelmingly from Greenwich.

The revised pre-application is now for a 60,000 sq ft building, down from about 80,000 sq ft.

They are also reducing the proposed building by an entire floor.

To build a new Smilow Cancer Center at the corner of Lafayette and Lake Ave by the traffic circle, the applicant would seek a rezoning from RMF to H-2, just as is across the street. Permitted Floor Area Ratio would be amended upwards from the allowed .6 FAR.

The revised building would have a smaller visual presence, but Ms Kelly said they were confident they could still grow as the cancer rate grows, and new specialists are brought in.

David Hardman reminder the applicant the commission’s responsibility is for land use.

“I think you’re asking us to do something that runs counter to one of the key elements of our POCD,” he said. “We need to mindful of our neighborhoods, and any massing that any development would bring.”

He asked if there was any existing underutilized space available or if it was possible to buy adjacent properties to satisfy their square footage.

“The dilemma you’re presenting us is that this is a significant increase,” Mr. Hardman added.

Ms. Kelly said they had looked for existing space and it does not exist.

The hospital has already acquired properties along Lake Ave, and their attorney Tom Heagney said they were unable to acquire more properties north of the hospital on Perryridge.

Commissioner Dennis Yeskey said the presentation was very impressive.

“Having been part of writing the POCD, particularly this section of it, this is the kind of thing we were looking for,” he said. “Thank you. Sometimes we get ill conceived master plans.”

Mr. Yeskey said there are two things important to residents when they come to town. “Early on it’s schooling and the community, and eventually it’s going to be health care,” he said. “If we want residents to stay in this community, this is a very important application.”

The Planning and Zoning commission met Dec 1 via Zoom to hear a revised preliminary application from Greenwich Hospital. Screenshot.

During her presentation, Ms. Kelly said a cancer center would need to be regional to succeed.

“That’s why we look at regional. You have to draw from more than the town you are in if you are going to continue to provide high quality services,” she said.

She said the new Smilow Cancer Center would be part of a “campus” and benefit from “synergies” with Greenwich Hospital and Bendheim.

Smilow has some of the top physicians in the country, and patients would be able to enroll in their trials.

She said there was a plan is to redo an Oncology unit at the hospital with all private rooms, and Smilow physicians to go see their patients when they are in the hospital.

Kelly said the Greenwich service area is a populated area expecting 4,109 new cancer cases a year within 10 years, but that Greenwich residents and those from surrounding communities are currently unable to access specialized care locally.

“When I say if you were trying to get into a lung care specialist in the Greenwich/Yale New Haven Health system, you would not be able to,” she said.

She said with a cancer diagnosis a person has to be ready to devote a year of their live to getting well and getting healthy, and in a patient centered strategy, it’s important that a cancer patient doesn’t have to drive far to get home.

“Driving more than 30 minutes is a hardship,” she said.

Greenwich has a population of about 62,000 residents, which is not enough to house an acute care facility. She said the service area, which includes neighboring towns and parts of Westchester, has a population of 575,000.

She said today, Greenwich Hospital’s predominantly cancer care is for Breast cancer.

“Most of us, if they live to about 56, are more than likely going to need in their lifetime heart and vascular, cardiac care and cancer care. Many people will need both, and the majority of patients will need one or the other,” Kelly said. “Top talent is going to go where people are investing in their care and looking at the newest opportunities to be in trials.”

At the end of the discussion, Ms Alban asked the commissioners if they felt the application struck a balance between the town’s needs per the POCD, retaining character, and not impacting neighborhoods.

“This is a significant structure in a significant part of town,” Mr. Macri said.

Mr. Hardman noted there had been progress on the application.

However, he said, “If Greenwich represents 25% of the catchment area, I don’t think it’s really the right thing for this neighborhood to bear that imposition, from a land use standpoint.”

See also:

P&Z Watch: 8-30g Pre-Application for 15 Unit Development Next to Cos Cob School in Site of Flower Shop

Dec 1, 2020