Zoning changes to accommodate proposed hospital voted down in Pomfret

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy: Christopher Schaeffer and John Sedota, Pomfret board members, vote ‘no’ at a Wednesday meeting on a proposed local law that would add the definition of a hospital and health care facility within the town’s agricultural, residential district.

A zoning change to accommodate the proposed Brooks Memorial Hospital was voted down at a recent Pomfret Town Board meeting.

The local law that came before the board Wednesday aimed to add the definition of a hospital and health care facility to the town’s zoning law and code. Language within the local law also detailed that such a hospital or facility would need a special use permit in order to proceed. Property off of Route 20 where the proposed hospital would rest is in an AR1 district.

With a 3-2 vote Wednesday, the local law was turned down. Among those voting ‘yes’ were Town Supervisor Don Steger and board members Brett Christy and Ann Eckman.

Even though there were more votes in favor, the proposal needed a supermajority due to the Chautauqua County Planning Board’s disapproval of the town’s proposed change. The town referred the local law to the county Planning Board for its determination last month.

If the county Planning Board gave its approval of the proposal, the 3-2 vote would have allowed the changes. With the county’s disapproval, an additional ‘yes’ vote was needed to override the county’s determination and grant changes.

Board members Christopher Schaeffer and John Sedota voted ‘no.’ Schaeffer said he didn’t agree with a zoning law change that would accommodate one entity.

While Christy and Eckman voted ‘yes’ to the proposal, they both expressed reservation over the hospital. Christy said he’s a firm believer of an egress on and off Route 60. And while no application from the hospital has made it to the town board, Christy said he would not vote ‘yes’ if the hospital doesn’t pursue a Route 60 egress.

Christy said he voted ‘yes’ due to the fact he doesn’t want to close the doors on somebody looking to bring stabilization and growth to the region, the county and the town.

Eckman relayed the same sentiments as Christy. However, Eckman said she’s spoken publicly that the location isn’t the right one for a hospital.

“As a board member who represents the entire town, I have to vote in a way that will allow development and allow potentially new businesses that are taxpaying businesses to come into our town,” she said. “The stipulation would be I will not approve a site plan (for the hospital) without a Route 60 access, at minimum, and other things to be decided after that.”