Zoning reviews Silver Hill renovation plans
Eight months after receiving approval for a highly debated expansion project, Silver Hill Hospital received approval to renovate their campus and rebuild their admissions building as part of an ongoing project to enhance their facility.
The Planning and Zoning commission approved the application at a meeting on Tuesday, June 28. The project, known as the “West Campus Enhancement Plan,” will add a new driveway, parking and landscaping to the campus. The hospital will also be rebuilding its current admissions building, known as “Grey House,” to make it larger, safer and code compliant, according to the proposal pitched during the meeting.
The renovation will not lead to an increase in patients, beds or staff, according to the application cover letter submitted on behalf of the hospital by attorney Michael P. Sweeney of Carmody, Torrance, Sandak & Hennessey LLP.
This renovation is part of an 11-year restoration project of Silver Hill Hospital grounds said Dr. Sigurd Ackerman, president and medical director of Silver Hill. Ackerman also said the plan has the approval of the Silvermine River Neighborhood Association, who he meets with quarterly. He said he notified all neighbors on the circumference of the project and met with some of them to gain their approval.
“This will not visually compromise anything in our neighborhood,” he said. “I believe this will be what people expect of Silver Hill.”
Richard Turlington, the architect for the project, said that previous Silver Hill projects also showed a commitment to maintaining the aesthetic of the neighborhood.
“Part of the uniqueness of Silver Hill is the location,” Turlington said. “We’re just as invested in maintaining the character of the neighborhood as the neighbors.”
The West Campus Enhancement Plan notes that the new building, over double the size of the current facility, will have a colonial design and look residential in character, as to blend into the other campus buildings and the surrounding neighborhood.
Turlington said in his proposal that the current building does not meet state codes for psychiatric care, nor is it handicap accessible. Ackerman also noted the admissions building has inadequate privacy, nor can a nurse in the area efficiently supervise patients being admitted due to the current structure. Ackerman said hospital surveys show that patients are unhappy with the admission process, which can take about three hours due to the current building design.
The plan increases the admission area capacity for the hospital, which currently admits about eight patients a day. It plans for three pairs of private waiting areas and exam rooms. It also plans for a private admissions courtyard, as well as nursing station where the nurse on-duty can see the exam rooms, which strengthens the safety of the facility. The plans show the first floor being dedicated to clinical use, while the second floor will be for business use.
The proposal also says suggested renovations will help reduce traffic around the clinic. Parking will be moved away from Valley Road and neighbors. The new driveway to the hospital will feature branded signage, in order to avoid confusion of residential buildings for the hospital, something that has posed an issue in the past. It’ll also be redesigned so the driveway forms a loop, creating a better traffic flow.
The commission posed questions about potential light pollution from the lights in the new parking spaces, as well as questions about staffing and the flow of the new driveways, but generally agreed that the plans would improve the safety and quality of the hospital.
Kent Turner, a commission member and Valley Road resident, recused himself from the hearing to comment on the proposal. When the commission opened the floor to the public, Turner brought up concern about the validity of some claims of the proposal, as well as the potential of light pollution from the new parking lot and Silver Hill being an ongoing construction site for the foreseeable future.
Last October, Silver Hill received approval to renovate and use their 225 Valley Road property as a medical facility, over two years after the hospital presented the original proposal to Planning and Zoning. The proposal was approved with conditions set by neighbors, including Turner. Construction on 225 Valley Road has not yet begun.
After the difficulty with the approval for the Valley Road expansion, other residents of the area believe the hospital is really making an effort to work with the neighbors.
“They have spoken to the neighbors about the renovation,” said Dana Prinz, who lives on Valley Road. “They’re trying to be good neighbors.”
No other members of the public spoke out with opinions about the hospital renovation.
At the end of the meeting, the commission approved the proposal, with the only condition that there be additional shielding by the lights located near Valley Road.