Hospital not a ‘done deal’
by Staff Writer
by Josh Lanier
HUNTERSVILLE – Carolinas Medical Center leaders met this week with a concerned – and at times angry – group of about 20 Monteith Place and Pottstown homeowners to discuss the 66-bed behavioral health hospital planned for the corner of Verhoeff Drive and Old Statesville Road.
Hospital leaders held the meeting Monday, Jan. 9, at the Huntersville Oaks retirement community to explain their plans and try to calm homeowners’ concerns.
Residents fear the hospital will create safety issues with increased traffic only feet from their homes and become a hub for crime, driving down home values.
Hospital officials tried to explain the need for mental health services and all the steps they plan to implement to curb traffic problems and supplant safety issues, but the largest sticking point boiled down to residents feeling like they have no say in the matter. Several repeated throughout the meeting this was a “done deal.”
But Huntersville’s Principal Planner David Peete said there are still several items that need to be completed before any rezoning vote would happen, and public input is still being sought.
“This is not a ‘done deal’ as we heard in that meeting … I would say we’re a little more than halfway through with the process, but there are a lot of things still left to be worked out by (CMC) and with the town,” he said.
Hospital leaders presented plans for the site, and eventual additional phases, to the town board earlier this month. The public hearing for those plans is still open. The planning board will have its say after hospital officials and town leaders work out a number of issues concerning the site – the largest being required road improvements to U.S. 21 and a request by the hospital to have a 40-foot barrier between Dr. Seay Drive and Monteith Place homes rather than the standard 80-feet of buffer.
The planning board can make suggestions for changes to the plan and ask for more information before deciding to vote it forward or not. After that, town board members can decide to vote for the plan, deny it or suggest more changes.
“Rezoning is a 100-percent legislative decision,” Peete said.
He said the rezoning is entirely the board’s decision and will be based on its past experiences, planning ordinances, community plans and discussions with hospital leaders, town planning board and public comments.
Homeowners felt the amount of work already put into the plans was a sign that both the town board and planning board were likely not going to demand more changes, or would be less likely to stop the plan.
Susan Mazzella, a Monteith Place homeowner, said she felt railroaded after seeing all of the architectural designs and work that had gone into the site plan.
Peete said the site plans, schematics and breakdowns are the price of doing business, put short “you have to spend money to create applicable plans” he said. Carolinas Medical Center has to show town planners exactly how they will build the hospital and maintain the building so officials can make an informed decision, he said.
As homeowners left the meeting, many said they were just as mad as when they arrived.
“It solved nothing for me,” Narendra Jutura, a Monteith Place homeowner, said. “I’m now more shocked at how this is being handled and the lack of planning.”
Keith Jung, another Monteith Place homeowner, said he would upgrade his security system if the hospital were built because he fears for the safety of his family.
While many homeowners seemed entrenched in their opinions, others said they were willing to listen to hospital leadership’s ideas and hold back their opinions.
The Huntersville town board will continue its public hearing Monday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. They expect to vote on the facility Feb. 6.
Questions and Answers
Below are a number of the questions asked by homeowners at Monday’s meeting. We’ve fact checked the responses from hospital officials.
• What kind of patients will be kept at this hospital?
Hospital officials say the facility will house those with mood disorders like major depression and some psychotic conditions like schizophrenia. The facility couldn’t be used as a “methadone clinic.”
• How will this affect my home’s value?
That’s unclear. In 1990, a review of 25 states found neighborhoods next to these types of facilities saw no decrease in property values.
• Why didn’t they consider another site for the facility?
CMC already owns the land, and the need for more mental health services, especially in the north Mecklenburg County area, is very high. Creating multiple site plans would be cost prohibitive, and the Verhoeff Drive site could be tailored to meet all of the hospital’s state-mandated requirements and growth plans.