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Hospital plan greenlit after hours-long city meeting

Mayor Kellar casts the lone dissenting vote

Posted: November 20, 2008 10:29 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2008 4:30 a.m.

After 4 1/2 years of wrangling, Santa Clarita City Council members agreed to expand the valley's only hospital during a meeting that ran into Thursday morning.

"Until another hospital comes in - which will be many, many years away - we only have one opportunity for care," said Councilwoman Laurene Weste of her "yes" vote.

"Ladies and gentleman, good projects do not keep us out here at 1 a.m.," said Mayor Bob Kellar, who voted against the plan, criticizing its density. "We're pounding 20 pounds into a 5-pound bag and it hurts the community."

The vote to expand Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia followed the introduction of an 11th-hour deal aimed at sweetening the agreement for opponents and trying to head off possible lawsuits if the council approved the plan.

The agreement approved early Thursday did not include the last-minute deal, which was introduced too late to be part of the proposal before the council.

A second council approval is required and the issue will be back on the agenda Dec. 9.

The council's approval of a 15-year master plan allows for the construction of three medical office buildings, a central plant, four multi-level parking structures totaling 2,231 spaces, and a 120-bed, five-story inpatient building.

The inpatient building and one parking structure would include helipads. The project is valued at $300 million.
The seven-hour-plus meeting included presentations by hospital CEO Roger Seaver and by SCV Smart Growth leader David Gauny, who criticized the growth plan on several fronts.

"This is not a way to plan for health care and it's not a way to plan a city," Gauny told the council.

Opposition has held up hospital expansion for nearly five years and forced several revisions in the proposal. The hospital campus is in a residential area at the already-busy intersection of McBean Parkway and Orchard Village Road.

"I can tell you from personal experience that (the hospital) is at capacity," said Dale Donohoe, a 46-year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley and one of nearly 60 residents who signed up to provide testimony during the public hearing.

"The care I received was excellent, but the facilities need improvements," Donohoe said.

Hospital growth supporters sported buttons reading "Vote YES on hospital master plan."

"I've spent the last two years fretting about this campus expansion," Valencia resident Tony Newhall said. "I am dismayed by how little the plan has actually changed after two years of controversy and modifications.

"The developers are trying to ram too much on too small (of a) plot of land in the heart of a residential community."

He said the controversy over Newhall Memorial's plan has taken a toll on the community.

"Why does a hospital need lobbyists? It's because this is not about a hospital. It's a real estate deal," he said.

In a 4-1 vote with Kellar dissenting, council members approved the final environmental impact report and adopted a statement of overriding considerations for Newhall Memorial's master plan.

In a 3-2 vote with Kellar and Councilwoman Marsha McLean dissenting, the council passed the master plan's development agreement to a second reading.



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