For those neighbors who were unable to attend the August 21 Zoning Board Meeting, the meeting was a public hearing to specifically address the narrow legal issue whether the Hudson Ridge Wellness Center is a “hospital” that is eligible for a Special Permit in a residential district under the relevant sections of the Town Zoning Code. Mr. Martin Rogers, the Town of Cortlandt Director of Code Enforcement, issued a preliminary ruling on March 19th and a final ruling on May 21st that the proposed facility is not a hospital as the applicant claims. The applicant has appealed these rulings to the Zoning Board, requesting that they be overturned. The purpose of the public hearing, which will continue at the September 18th meeting, is to present comments regarding Mr. Rogers’ ruling and the applicant’s appeal, which will then be decided by the Zoning Board sometime in the fall.

Initially, two Zoning Board Members, Mr. Walsh and Mr. Franco, recused themselves from consideration of the issue, citing perceived potential conflicts of interest. Accordingly, all four remaining Board Members (there was already a vacant seat) must rule in favor of the applicant if they are to prevail (unless a new permanent or alternate member(s) is appointed).

Thereafter, Mr. Bob Davis, representing the applicant, presented his argument that the determination by the Town of Cortlandt Director of Code Enforcement Rogers, was incorrect. Mr. Davis argued in summary that Mr. Rogers’ determination incorrectly applied and misinterpreted the governing law and standards, was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that the proposed facility comported with the special permitted use for hospitals under Town zoning.

Following Mr. Davis’s presentation, Michael Shannon, a resident whose property adjoins the proposed facility, responded that Mr. Roger’s determination was in fact a well reasoned decision by a disinterested party who is totally qualified to make such a determination. Mr. Shannon noted that the applicant, when conducting well testing, referred to the proposed facility as a nursing home, not a hospital, as that standard better suited their purpose and used less water than a hospital. Mr. Shannon also noted that the facility is being marketed nationally to an affluent audience, which is atypical for a hospital.

Thereafter, Mr. David Steinmetz, attorney for Citizens for Responsible Hudson Institute Site Development (CRHISD), underscored that the proposed facility has been marketed from the outset as a for profit, commercial venture. Mr. Steinmetz argued that Mr. Rogers reasonably interpreted the Zoning Code to determine that the proposed residential treatment facility does not qualify as a hospital.  Mr. Steinmetz also pointed out that the term “specialty hospital,” which is how the applicant characterizes its facility, does not appear in the Town Code.

The next public hearing will be Wednesday, September 18th, when Mr. Davis and Mr. Steinmetz are expected to make further comments.  Additionally, an attorney concentrating in health care law will present further arguments on behalf of CRHISD in support of Mr. Roger’s’ position. Mr. Rogers is also expected to appear at the meeting to defend his determination and respond to questions.

In the meantime, please mark your calendars to attend this hearing.