[caption id="attachment_20384" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="An environmental-impact lawsuit could have stopped construction on the hospital, if successful. (click to enlarge)"][/caption]
SANTA ROSA -- A Sonoma County judge has sided with Sutter Health and the Board of Supervisors over opponents of Sutter's forthcoming $284 million hospital north of Santa Rosa, determining that the environmental impact review was exhaustive and that the suing parties did not have legal standing.
Read the judge's ruling in PDF format.
The ruling allows construction to continue without delay. The hospital is scheduled to open in fall 2014.
Opponents were led by the North Sonoma County Health Care District, which oversees Healdsburg District Hospital, as well as the California Nurses Association, Palm Drive Healthcare District and Transportation Solutions, an environmental group. They contended that the new hospital was not in line with the California Environmental Quality Act and challenged the county's certification of the project environmental impact report.
"It's a ruling that we see is very supportive of the county, and we're excited that the hospital will move forward uninterrupted," said Mike Purvis, chief administrative officer of Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa.
Evan Rayner, chief executive officer of Healdsburg District Hospital, said it was too soon to say how the health care district would respond to the ruling.
"Our attorneys have acknowledged receipt of the court’s statement of decision, which found certain defects in the county’s review process," Mr. Rayner said in a statement. "They’re now in the process of analyzing the court’s decision, and it would be inappropriate for me or us to speculate on any aspect of the decision until attorneys have had adequate time to make their evaluations and recommendations."
While siding with Sutter's final EIR, the judge ordered the Board of Supervisors to reconsider some mitigation efforts and whether further measures should be adopted. He also asked the board to clarify whether the medical office building would be owned or operated by a governmental agency.
Sutter spokeswoman Lisa Amador said those matters will be clarified as soon as possible. She also said the hospital is a major boon to Sonoma County.
"It's a $284 million project and an estimated 1,500 jobs will be provided," Ms. Amador said. "At the end of the day, we're going to get a new state-of-the-art hospital, which doesn't come around very often."
Mr. Purvis said Sutter, while happy with the ruling, found it disappointing that the suit was brought on in the first place.
"The competing hospitals had no legal standing, which is most unfortunate because they are taxpayer-funded hospitals," Mr. Purivis said."We really feel it's unfortunate that these small hospitals went out of their way to use taxpayer money in this fashion."
Both the Board of Supervisors and the county Health and Human Services Department signed off on the plan, which calls for an 82-bed hospital on a 25-acre parcel next to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts and a medical campus that will include an 80,000 square-foot medical office building. The hospital possibly could expand by 27 beds.