by Katie Orlando

DAVIDSON – Residents wary of the Carolinas HealthCare System behavioral health hospital coming to Davidson say they see the hospital as a MI-Connection-scale mistake by town leadership. But commissioners say CHS has a right to build the hospital and the planning ordinance can’t stop it.

“I think some skepticism is warranted by the citizens of this town. And you’ve earned that skepticism,” resident Chris Bradley said to Davidson Mayor John Woods at the board’s community forum Tuesday, May 29.

Bradley and a citizens’ group sent an email to Davidson commissioners, planning board members and Woods earlier that day threatening legal action unless the town halts the process of CHS developing the 23-acre parcel east of Ramah Church Road on N.C. 73. The town and hospital announced May 9 that the 66-bed behavioral health hospital and outpatient clinic would begin construction in Davidson this summer. The hospital was rejected by the town of Huntersville earlier this year.

The land is zoned as a flex campus, meaning it does not need board approval to be developed for commercial uses, including health care.

The citizen letter points to disparities in planning ordinance language, but town leaders maintain that a hospital is a healthcare service.

“The citizen group challenges the project on the basis of improper application of the current ordinance and zoning,” the letter said.

Bradley questioned the intention of the ordinance and the fiscal responsibility of a hospital that will not contribute to the town’s commercial tax base on property that was painstakingly zoned to encourage economic development.

“There was so much time and energy spent drafting the new flex campus language. A ton, a ton of debate,” Bradley said. “There was a huge discussion over maintaining the tax base. That was one of the main focuses of the new zoning – to make sure we didn’t give away the tax base.”

Hospital opponents said town leaders shouldn’t let that land go to a business that will not pay taxes to Davidson after five straight years of financial losses to MI-Connection debt service.

CHS and Davidson officials said the hospital would encourage commercial development like other medical practices, create 155 jobs and drive local spending by employees and visitors.

“When Huntersville denied their rezoning request … I turned to CHS officials, as did several other mayors in Mecklenburg County. I just invited them to come look in Davidson,” and that was the extent of any recruiting, Woods said. “I, for one, am proud that we could be a community that could have that service here.”

Woods said CHS will hold a community meeting in June.

Want to get involved?

Find the citizen group Due Process Davidson at Facebook.com/DueProcess
Davidson to get involved in the discussion.