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After more than two years, NCH received the green light to pursue its five-story R.M. Schulze Family Cardiovascular and Stroke Critical Care Center in downtown Naples following approval by Naples City Council on Feb. 7 of three separate conditions.  

In a 4-1 vote, Council voted to approve rezoning more than 13 acres of the hospital’s campus from medical to public service with Vice Mayor Terry Hutchison dissenting. Councilor Ray Christman recused himself from any discussion or vote. Christman, who lives directly across from the proposed project, said this could affect the property value of his home. 

Council voted 3-2 to allow the hospital building to be 87 feet, exceeding the city’s 42-foot height limit for commercial buildings. Councilors Hutchison and Beth Petrunoff voted against the conditional-use application.  

Hutchison was the only vote against the project’s site development plan in a 4-1 vote. 

The project brings all the hospital’s heart and stroke services under one roof. The ground floor will allow access onto the campus and act as a replacement for the Telford building with space for administration and classrooms. The second floor will have operating rooms and two connections into the main hospital—one for visitors and one for doctors. Luke Johnson, vice president of CannonDesign, said this connection will cut the travel distance time from one building to the next by 75%. 

The proposed parking garage was the most discussed issue during the hearing, as NCH originally wanted the structure to be 40 feet in height to provide the best design but agreed to change it to 30 feet upon recommendation by the Naples Planning Advisory Board in December. The garage will ultimately be 37 feet, with the top deck rising to 31 feet with 6-foot screenings on the top floor.  

NCH CEO Paul Hiltz said if the parking garage aspect of the project is delayed or denied, the project will die.  

Petrunoff questioned the need for the parking garage to be that high, as the top floor of the current garage is often empty.  

“While there may be spaces here periodically throughout time, it’s not enough to meet the needs in the future,” Johnson said.  

Signage also was a point of discussion and was the only revised design element from the first hearing in January. Johnson said that signage on the canopy, which will read R.M. Schulze Family Cardiovascular and Stroke Critical Care Center, has been reduced by almost 40%. The same sign will be above the entrance doors, as well.   

Mayor Teresa Heitmann requested a condition that NCH test the water quality of its pond, which the hospital agreed to do annually.  

Richard Grant, an attorney representing NCH, told Council he submitted revisions to the rezoning ordinance to staff a day prior to the hearing, which gained scrutiny from Hutchison who said he supports delaying a vote to make sure the public can consider the changes.  

“You guys are professionals, we shouldn’t be receiving last-minute changes. That is not appropriate,” Hutchison said.  

The delay did not gain traction from other council members.  

Heitmann asked Hiltz if seeking medical tourism is in the plans for the new facility.  

“That is not a primary part of our strategy. We take care of people who show up here, but we don’t have an organized strategy to seek international business,” Hiltz said. 

After the three votes, Hiltz ultimately thanked Council for the approval.  

“I just wanted to say thank you to the Council and mayor for this, it was a difficult process, long process, but I think we got to a great place and we’re committed to making this a great project,” he said. “We will work very closely with you to get this done.” 

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