Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Long-sought nursing home nears reality; would-be neighbor wonders if others understand the plan

UPDATE: The Planning and Zoning Commission voted Oct. 18 to recommend approval of the zone change, the amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and the conditional-use permit for Christian Care Communities. The city council has final say over the zone change.

By Rachel Bryant
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The family of Susan Coats, right, has lived on Woodstone Farm just outside Midway’s southeast city limits for 35 years, and she’s been there a year and a half. Now she sees her serene way of life threatened by the possibility of what she calls a new subdivision overlooking her property.

Midway’s 12-year-old nursing home task force and the nonprofit Christian Care Communities call it something else: a long-needed nursing home and assisted living facility. The 31 acres off East Stephens Street is zoned agricultural, so Coats and the nursing-home advocates may face off in a zoning hearing at 6:30 tomorrow night at Midway College.

The nursing home task force includes people from all over Woodford County. Helen Rentch, a member from Midway, said the campaign was started to keep seniors in the community.

“We have a lot of seniors in Midway who reached a point where they couldn’t stay home alone safely and there is no other care in Midway, so people had to leave town to go to where they could get care,” Rentch said. “Sometimes they had to go to several counties away.”

The task force members have overcome many obstacles. To be able to build a nursing home they had to get a certificate of need from the state, but the state was not licensing additional nursing homes at the time. The task force did a market study to see if there was support in the community for a nursing home, and discovered Woodford County had a higher percentage of people in retirement age than the other surrounding counties. That helped them get help in Frankfort to use the license for 23 nursing-home beds once held by the old Versailles hospital.

Christian Care Communities is Kentucky’s largest faith-based, not-for-profit provider of senior living arrangements. The nursing home task force contacted Christian Care, which will be the sole owner of the nursing home.

To build the small facility first envisioned, at least six acres were needed. The task force looked at many sites in and near Midway but had very few options. Rentch said two were zoned for development but the owners didn’t want to sell. Midway Station offered a site, but that was put on hold when Bluegrass Stockyards considered moving to Midway Station from Lexington.

The current site became available during the debate over the stockyards and was chosen because of its location. It is close to Midway College, allowing the college’s nursing program to collaborate with the facility. It is also close to town, so residents can drive golf carts downtown to shop, eat and be a part of the community. And it has more acreage, allowing more multi-household homes and a less institutional approach.

The plans for the nursing home and assisted living facility call for 23 skilled nursing beds, 12 personal-care rooms for people with dementia and other cognitive impairments, 12 assisted-living apartments, and patio homes for independent living.

The chief problem with the site is that it is zoned agricultural, and there has been considerable sentiment in Woodford County against rezoning agricultural land for development.

Coats said she can see how the site is more attractive, and how the new approach with patio homes is probably a better business plan, “but I’m not sure that justifies the rezoning and annexation when so much land has already been categorized that way.”

“What makes this community unique seems to be the farms and we need to support the farms, not business,” she said. “The land became available, so the plans expanded. It’s not truly meeting the needs espoused by the task force. . . . I just want there to be full discussion. I want everybody to understand what they’re committing to.”

Sharon Turner, a city council and nursing-home task force member, said the independent houses will be for seniors who can live by themselves and are able to take advantage of the services, such as laundry, food and a call light.

The responsibility of expense for the buildings has been distributed between the nursing home task force, Christian Care Communities and the city of Midway.

The city has a $500,000 community development block grant for the project because of the new jobs the nursing home will create. Rentch said Christian Care can borrow money and the city can issue bonds.

“We hope to break ground next fall,” Turner said. “Once construction starts it will take about a year to open the doors.”

If the land is rezoned and annexed into the city, Coats fears that the development will devalue her property both aesthetically and financially. She is also concerned about extra water runoff that could flood her crops. (Photo: Coats on her property, at the fence with the tract proposed for development)

She said she supports democracy, and if a majority of the city wants the nursing home built, then she will accept the decision. But she wants everyone to fully understand all aspects of the plan before they agree to it. She says the original idea of a nursing home has turned into “a subdivision on my fence line,” and wonders if the proposed developer of Midway Station wanted to build patio homes on the property “if they’d be willing to condemn it to R-3.”

Hank Graddy, Christian Care Communities’ lawyer and a leading preservationist, said the developers have heard Coats’ concerns and modified the plans. The buildings were moved farther away from the fence line so the property that joins Coates’ land would remain open space. They also added rain gardens to catch the runoff.

“We are trying to control both rate and volume of run-off by using appropriate design features on our property that would keep as much storm water as appropriate on our property,” Graddy said.

Before anything can be built on the land, the group has to follow a set of procedures to have the development approved by the city. On Sept. 7 Graddy filed with the city council an application to rezone the property from agriculture to R-3 residential, asked the city to annex the property into the city, and asked the city to support amending the county’s comprehensive plan to include the property within the urban service boundary.

At the meeting the council approved on first reading an annexation ordinance to bring the property inside the city limits.

Graddy has since filed an application to amend the comprehensive plan and an application for conditional-use permits to locate a nursing facility on the property.

At the hearing the Planning and Zoning Commission will hear public comment on the zone change, the conditional use permits and amendment of the comprehensive plan. A decision will come later.

No comments: