A March Preface:
We the neighbors of Blodgett Hospital and members of Our EGR support the project, though we disagree with the design as the design requires an extraordinary quantity of variances be granted. As good neighbors we desire that Blodgett Hospital thrives as a community medical facility and healthcare provider; as property taxpayers surrounding the Hospital campus, we are not adversarial, to the contrary. We simply ask that the Hospital be held to the same standards as any one of us would be. We believe with their available resources that they find a way to accomplish what they desire within the existing zoning framework just as any homeowner would be. We have sincerely attempted to provide win-win-win suggestions and have approached problem-solving with an open perspective.
Ironically, the perimeter neighbors that comprise the buffer zone and who will be most greatly negatively impacted by the Spectrum Health proposal for the Blodgett Hospital Campus pay nearly three times the annual property taxes that Blodgett pays. What happens when our property values decline, or property taxes paid to the City are reduced accordingly, and the City receives less revenue?
The March 29 Meeting:
On Thursday, March 29 during a follow-up meeting with the Hospital, Our EGR presented just one suggestion to be considered: Remove the uppermost level of the Proposed South Parking Garage and slide it beneath the lowest level proposed by the Hospital.
This single suggestion would reduce the massiveness of the Proposed South Parking Garage and with appropriately dense and layered screen vegetation the streetscape along Plymouth Avenue SE and Sherman Street would be enhanced.
In support of this suggestion, Our EGR responded to each of the criteria that the Hospital identified in the meeting of March 22 by its Administrators, Architects, and Construction Managers. The Hospital objected to this suggestion offering as its reason that the top level of the South Parking Garage would no longer directly connect to the top floor of the Professional Office Building. This made little sense as the Hospital's own revised scheme first presented a week earlier no longer directly connected to the top floor of the Professional Office Building. The only other issue that was raised by the Hospital was the space left above the "high water table". A week earlier they indicated that they needed a distance of seven (7) feet; the suggestion presented by Our EGR allowed a little more that eight (8) feet. The Hospital indicated that they would meet with the structural engineers to see if moving a level of the deck lower was possible.
This narrow and focused suggestion by Our EGR used the very information provided by the Hospital and the suggestion is structurally possible and feasible by their own admission as it carefully followed all the rationale offered by the Hospital in the March 22 meeting. This was intentional to eliminate any argument from the Hospital.
In perhaps the most heated exchange, a glaring omission in the drawings and documents prepared by the Hospital and presented to the Public and the Planning Commission on March 20 was brought to the attention of the Hospital [and found in the slideshow on the Our EGR Homepage]. In a move that could be described as the best defensive move is an offensive one, the Hospital responded by threatening to immediately terminate the meeting.
Following the March 22 Meeting:
Our EGR truly listened to the points raised by the Hospital in defense of their proposal and the outright rejection of the various ideas presented in the original Our EGR Conceptual Site Plan.
Our EGR concluded that the most fruitful outcome for all [a true win-win- win] would be to concentrate efforts within the framework of the wants [Let’s be clear: These are not needs!] as described by the Hospital, and offer up refinements of the Proposed Hospital Scheme that would help the Hospital and satisfy the surrounding residents City. Win-Win-Win.
On Saturday, March 24 Our EGR made a written request to the Hospital to provide copies of the meeting minutes from all the previous meetings in which Our EGR members were in attendance. Finally on Tuesday, March 27 the Hospital responded to the Our EGR request: “At this time, we are unable to distribute minutes or notes from the previous meetings.”
Why would the hospital not release meeting minutes to all participants?
Thursday March 22 Meeting in the Blodgett Hospital Community Room:
On Thursday March 22, a hastily planned meeting in the Blodgett Community Room was held between Blodgett staff and key residents. Called without a pre-published agenda, the residents attended in good faith still hoping for a win-win-win solution. The meeting was three hours in duration, was adjourned due to fatigue with a follow-up meeting scheduled the following week. It became clear that the Hospital was not sincere and was merely going through the motions, listening to the input provided by the residents, and summarily dismissing any suggestion.
Despite this three-hour work session between Spectrum Health staff and residents, the Hospital did not offer any significant concessions. They did offer up two ‘give-away’ concessions, inconsequential to the Hospital which included lowering the top level of the proposed south parking garage four (4) feet, and moving the proposed location of the public sidewalk four (4) feet away from the curb at the roadside of Plymouth Avenue SE.
That the Hospital had proposed a sidewalk immediately adjacent to the roadway was a safety hazard for all pedestrians, and provided no area for plowed snow from the roadway, so the location that was proposed in the Tuesday night meeting by Spectrum Health staff was ill-conceived and likely incorporated as an item to be conceded during negotiations.
Despite the plush elevational renderings provided by the Hospital that demonstrate otherwise, this view will never be realized as the height and the massiveness of the parking garage wall will never be concealed. This is a blatant disregard for the neighborhood streetscape and pedestrian experience and destroys the fabric and character of the neighborhood which the City is to preserve.
The massing, height, and resultant vehicular traffic burden placed unnecessarily on Plymouth Avenue SE residents remains an issue. Stated another way, the Hospital, through the variances required by its proposed Site Plan Scheme and subsequent revisions, is displacing any hardships it may argue it has onto the surrounding residents, and if no hardships truly exist, is then creating hardships for the surrounding neighbors.
In order for a variance to be considered, a hardship by the applicant must be demonstrated.
The discussion with the core neighbor group on Thursday, March 22 still centered on what the Hospital will not do. Despite their offer to confer with OurEGR Architects, Engineer and core neighbors, their stance seemed to be 'defer, disrupt, deflect and deny' rather than consider workable alternatives. The Hospital is not acting in good faith. The Hospital has demonstrated through its actions that it is neither honorable or a good neighbor.
The March 20 Planning Commission Meeting and Presentation:
March 20, 2018, was the second appearance before the East Grand Rapids Planning Commission. Despite the recommendation of approval by the consultant Planning firm retained by the City of East Grand Rapids, following presentations by both the Hospital and Our EGR the Planning Commission tabled the vote, and encouraged Spectrum Health to reach out to the neighbors for input. This was on the heels of the presentation of a viable alternative conceptual Site Plan by Our EGR as well as letters from well-respected engineering firms near and far, and impassioned pleas by individual residents negatively impacted by the submitted Hospital Site Plan.
If you support these alternative measures please consider making a tax-deductible donation.
Checks can be made out to the Our EGR Homeowner's Association.
Our EGR Homeowner's Association is a 501(c)(3)