Medical zone is approved

Following seven months of public hearings and delays, the New Haven City Plan Commission approved changes to part of the zoning ordinances to accommodate the proposed Yale-New Haven Hospital Cancer Center Wednesday night. But although the changes to the text of the zoning ordinance was approved, proposed changes to the zoning map were not discussed at the hearing.

The city’s aldermanic chambers were filled with area residents concerned about the hospital’s future at a public hearing held after the City Plan Commission’s weekly meeting, at which representatives from local group Community Organized for Responsible Development and Yale-New Haven supporters voiced their concerns regarding the proposed changes to the zoning ordinances that would allow for the construction of the center.

Yale-New Haven Hospital lawyer Susan Byrson speaks to the City Plan Commission last night. Behind her are photos and proposed plans for the hospital’s cancer center project.
Leland Milstein
Yale-New Haven Hospital lawyer Susan Byrson speaks to the City Plan Commission last night. Behind her are photos and proposed plans for the hospital’s cancer center project.

The changes will next be voted on by the Board of Aldermen, which will make the final decision regarding the zoning’s approval. The Board has not yet scheduled a vote on the issue.

Karen Gilvarg, executive director of the City Plan Commission, provided testimony at the hearing regarding the changes the city proposed to Yale-New Haven’s medical zone. She said the vote was a positive step toward the resolution of the issue.

“Say there were 12 parts and they were all up in the air. This one has landed,” Gilvarg said. “I think that’s progress.”

But hospital officials remain frustrated at the city’s delay in approving the necessary changes to the zoning, Yale-New Haven spokesman Vincent Petrini said. The further delay in the approval of the map changes leaves the hospital incapable of moving forward with the plans, said Susan Bryson, a lawyer for the hospital.

“It’s meaningless,” Bryson said. “This is just a process of making it look like something is happening when nothing is happening.”

Petrini said the hospital communicated with the city during the planning stages of the project but has not heard back from city officials in five months. He said the zone as currently proposed by the City Plan Commission is flawed and does not allow for the construction of the center as planned.

Community members used the public hearing format to express their concerns about issues ranging from traffic and parking to architectural integration with the neighborhood. Anthony Dovetail, a resident who lives in the area of the hospital, said he was concerned that there was still opposition to the project and called for Yale-New Haven to end the delays by negotiating a Community Benefits Agreement similar to the one ratified by CORD over a year ago.

“We’re sick and tired of being bullied by Yale-New Haven Hospital,” he said.

CORD continues to call for Yale-New Haven to meet with community members and negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement. CORD member Phoebe Rounds ’07 said the organization has attempted to set up meetings with the hospital but has so far only met with Petrini once in the spring.

“I think the best solution would be for the hospital to sit down with the community,” she said. “We have the City Plan Commission functioning as a sort of intermediary.”

Paul Pescatello, president of Connecticut United for Research Excellence, a state bioscience organization, said the addition of a facility such as the cancer center would improve the local economy. He said allowing the cancer center to be delayed by political disputes would be detrimental to the city and the state in an increasingly science- and research-driven world.

“The cancer center makes so much sense, he said. “We’re asking them to put aside all the political back-and-forth.”

New Haven City Plan Commission chair Patricia King said the Commission’s purpose is to discuss the zoning ordinances, and that the committee is not responsible for addressing all of the community’s concerns.

“We all want to see the cancer center built,” she said “What has been the challenge for us has been how to do it.”

The next meeting of the City Plan Commission will take place on Feb. 15.

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