Naples Community Hospital will begin work on a site plan for its new heart institution after the Naples City Council approved its request to amend the public service zoning ordinance on Wednesday.
NCH has moved with the city for a year to obtain permission to build a new five-story cardiac institution, replacing the current Telford building, south of downtown Baker Hospital, with a parking garage. In June 2021, the city adopted building height limits in commercial zoning districts of three floors. Therefore, to avoid this restriction, the NCH requested that community hospitals be added to the conditional use of a public service district, as long as it is compatible with adjacent buildings and the height is required to achieve the intended purpose, Till then allows more than three stories.
For the Heart Institute to be a community hospital it must meet certain criteria for being a non-profit, locally operated charity, as well as with the aim of serving the community with specialized services.
In June, the Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend approval to add community hospitals as a conditional use for the public service district. Last month the council reviewed the first reading of the ordinance and there was a second reading on Wednesday night.
Council member Raymond Christmann called for a more definite timeline of the project as a whole.
“Why am I asking this question, it’s not in my own interest or maybe the interest of the council, but you know I think the public is very interested in all of this,” Christman said. “These are going to be the details that are really important for all of us to see what’s really envisioned here.”
Paula McMichael, vice president of Naples-based developers Whole Montes, told the council that the developers have not yet started the official site planning process, but it will take about six months.
Not evaluating the details of the project from an expert’s perspective as a city worries council member Beth Petrunoff.
“We’re delivering something that voters said they didn’t necessarily want at the height, and I want to make sure we’re making a balanced and fully informed decision and I don’t know that anyone else should.” Have hospital experience or not [on council] But I don’t. That’s why it’s very hard to understand,” Petrunoff said.
Naples city planner Erica Martin refers to a previous workshop with NCH to discuss why home appliances need five stories to build properly. Petrunoff further said she would like to see an unbiased explanation of the height request, but City manager Jay Budheshwar thinks it will be premature.
“I think we have to rely on the architects and the petitioner to provide some of that information or provide that information, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage with a subject matter expert for peer review. It’s really up to you if that’s something you consider necessary to do, but I recommend that we wait,” Budheshwar said. “Let’s see what’s on offer, let’s see what the altitude looks like, let’s see what space is needed before making a decision. But I think the intention is to be collaborative.”
Christman expressed, going forward, building height is not the only thing of focus for the council. He said that the NCH should take into account how the building would affect the intensity of the area and how rezoning could have implications for future development. At this point it is unknown whether NCH will request the entire site to be made a public service area or if it is limited to a future cardiovascular institution footprint.
“We keep coming back to altitude, but the height and intensity and density of it now and in the future I will debate the mind of the public, the public who live especially in the wider neighborhood that is around the hospital,” Christman said.
The council voted unanimously to add community hospitals as a conditional use of the public service district. NCH has submitted a petition for preliminary design review which will be heard on November 18. The hospital noted that they would bring together rezoning, conditional use and site plan requests for staff to be heard by the Planning Advisory Board.