Residents balk over hospital plans
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Several residents of the Monteith Place neighborhood said they’re wary of the proposed 66-bed behavioral health hospital to be built in their backyards, and they’re asking the town board to do something to stop it.
Carolinas Medical Center officials gave commissioners Tuesday, Jan. 3, their first look at preliminary plans for the hospital to be built on the corner of Verhoeff Drive and N.C. 115.
As part of the discussion, the hospital chain is asking the town to hand over Dr. Seay Drive, which runs only a few feet from some Monteith Place homes, to create a private driveway that would be the main entrance for the facility. And although the hospital plans to line that driveway with trees and a 12-foot sound retention wall, many homeowners say it will create a nightmare for safety, traffic and noise.
“You’re going to create a situation where trucks are coming in and out of there all hours of the day and night only a few yards from where children are playing,” said Ben Coggins, secretary for the Monteith Place Homeowners Association.
No homeowner has made a formal complaint against the plans, but Coggins said that was only because they believed they had no say in the matter. Now that he knows the facility is only in the planning stages, he expects to see more resistance from Monteith Place homeowners.
“We were told this was a foregone conclusion,” he said. “We believed we were just going to have to deal with it … Now, I’m hoping we can get this stopped or at least moved to another site. I just want to know why here?”
Commissioners seemed to share some of their concerns. Commissioner Charles Guignard took umbrage with the distance between the Dr. Seay Drive and Monteith Place homes. Carolinas Medical Center asked for a 40-foot buffer instead of the 80-foot requirements.
“A 40-foot buffer isn’t very far from children (in the neighborhood),” he said.
Hospital officials said they considered moving the entrance, but Dr. Seay Drive was the only real option for the facility that is expected to grow over the years. Carolinas Medical Center plans to build a 30,000-square-foot medical building on the site several years from now to go along with The Oaks retirement community, behavioral health hospital and out patient office.
Planners expect to build a second entrance into the hospital by extending Lottingly Drive, a “stub” road in Monteith Place that currently goes nowhere. Residents said they feared connecting Lottingly to Verhoeff would create traffic backups and turn Monteith Place into a cut-through as cars pile up on N.C. 115.
Director of Engineering and Public Works Max Buchanan said he didn’t expect congestion along Verhoeff Drive from the extension, but Commissioner Danny Phillips harkened back to years ago when similar statements were made about N.C. 73, Huntersville’s now most congested road.
“We can either deal with this now,” he said, “or be forced to deal with it in 10 years when it’s a big problem.”
Carolinas Medical Center and the town are still trying to come to terms on a number of issues and they are expected to bring a more finalized plan to the Jan. 17 town board meeting.
In other board news
The town again deferred a decision to allow a proposed 199-foot cell phone tower to be placed on Beatties Ford Road, saying they would prefer to create a stronger ordinance before approving any towers.
The request came to the board nearly a year ago, when Pegasus Tower asked to build the structure to improve cell signal. Commissioner Charles Jeter said the placement of the tower was peculiar since it would likely benefit north Charlotte more than Huntersville.
“We shouldn’t be the resting place for north Charlotte’s cellular service,” he said.
All commissioners agreed a new, stronger text amendment was necessary, as cell phones become the most common use of digital communication and data consumption. Town staff and commissioners should have that text amendment to vote on at the Feb. 6 meeting.