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Naples Community Hospital will begin work on a site plan for its new heart institute after Naples City Council on Wednesday approved its application to amend the public service zoning ordinance.

NCH ​​has been back and forth with the city for a year to get permission to build a new five-story heart institute, replacing the current Telford building south of Downtown Baker Hospital, plus parking . In June 2021, the city adopted a building height limit in commercial zoning neighborhoods of three stories. Therefore, to avoid this restriction, NCH requested that community hospitals be added to the conditional uses of a utility district, allowing an excess of three stories as long as it is compatible with adjacent buildings and the height is necessary. to achieve the intended objective.

For the heart institute to be a community hospital, it must meet a handful of criteria, including being a locally run non-profit charitable organization aiming to serve the community with specialized services.

In June, the Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the addition of community hospitals as a conditional use of a utility district. Last month the council considered the first reading of the ordinance and Wednesday evening was the second reading.

Council member Raymond Christman requested a more specific timeline for the project as a whole.

“The reason I’m asking this question is not for my own benefit or perhaps for the council’s benefit, but you know I think the public is very interested in all of this,” Christman said. . “It’s going to be the details that really matter for all of us to see what’s really on the cards here.”

Paula McMichael, vice president of Naples-based developers Hole Montes, told the board that the developers had yet to begin the official sitemap process, but it would take about six months.

Not having assessed the details of the project from an expert perspective as a city is a concern of council member Beth Petrunoff.

“We’re giving something that voters had said they didn’t necessarily want on size, and I want to make sure we’re making a balanced, fully informed decision and I don’t know if anyone else has a hospital experience [on council] but I don’t. So it’s very difficult to understand,” Petrunoff said.

Naples city planner Erica Martin referenced a previous workshop with NCH explaining why five floors are needed to properly house equipment. Petrunoff went on to say that she would like to see an unbiased explanation for the pitch request, but City Manager Jay Boodheshwar thinks that would be premature.

“I think we’re going to have to rely on the architects and the petitioner to provide some of that information or to provide that information to make their case, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage with a subject matter expert to peer review. It’s really up to you if it’s something you feel is necessary to do, but I would recommend that we wait,” Boodheshwar said. “Let’s see what the proposal is, see what the height looks like, see what the space requirements are before we make that decision. But I think the intention is to be collaborative.

Christman expressed, going forward, building height isn’t the only thing the board needs to focus on. He said NCH should bear in mind the building’s impact on the intensity of the area and how the rezoning could have implications for future development. It is unclear at this stage whether NCH will ask to make the entire site a public service area or if it is limited to the footprint of the future heart institute.

“We keep coming back to the height, but its height, intensity and density now and in the future, I would say the spirit of the audience, the audience that particularly resides in the wider neighborhood around the hospital” , said Christman.

The council voted unanimously to add community hospitals as a conditional use of a utility district. NCH ​​has submitted a petition for a preliminary design review which will be heard on November 18. The hospital has indicated that it will simultaneously submit the rezoning, conditional use and site plan applications to staff for hearing by the planning advisory board.