Assisted living facility plans moving forward

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Developer Gayle Evans is now preparing new plans for hisassisted living facility that will address government concernsincluding green space, parking and other regulations that he willpresent to state officials at a later date.

But Evans said he hopes his planned assisted living facility hasencountered its last snag after it seemed to have hit anotherblockage with its vicinity to the railroad tracks that run throughdowntown Brookhaven.

In recent developments, Evans said the State Board of Health hadreviewed his plans for the assisted living facility and turned themdown based on several things, including the nearby railroadtracks.

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“They said that in the rules you can’t be adjacent to a railroadtrack,” Evans said. “I pointed out to him that we’re not adjacent,we’re about 300-400 feet up the street.”

Evans said a health official said he had to be over 1,000 feetfrom the railroad track. The proposed location, which Evans hasalready purchased, is behind the Trustmark Bank branch and acrossfrom the Inez Hotel on Monticello Street.

Evans said he and his representatives asked officials from theState Board of Health to show them where there was a rule about therailroad tracks, but they couldn’t. He said there did not seem tobe such a rule.

The next setback came when state officials tried to stopbuilding based on the lot size and green space. He said theconstraints the board was citing seemed once again to be somewhatunreasonable.

“So I asked for a hearing,” Evans said.

At that point, the area’s governmental delegation stepped in,Evans said. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Rep. Becky Currie, believingBrookhaven to have a need for an assisted living facility, called ameeting to get things straightened out.

“In my personal opinion what has happened, the state board ofhealth has decided to put in their own personal feelings,” Curriesaid. “For instance, there was a sitting area planned on top of theroof, kind of like in a larger city where you have a garden area orsitting space up there, which would be great. One of the auditorssaid that he was afraid of heights, so he didn’t think that was agood idea.”

Evans said he’s grateful for the fact that Currie and Hyde-Smithwere willing to get involved on his behalf.

“We’ve got some good representatives, they came to the rescue,and the mayor wrote a letter up there, too, and told them how badwe needed assisted living in Brookhaven,” Evans said. “I almosthaven’t had to do anything, they took the ball and ran withit.”

So at that meeting, state officials put a tentative stamp ofapproval on the project.

“They approved it to go ahead and build at that meeting, butsaid to be careful that nobody got hit by a train,” he said. “Isaid, ‘Hey, there’s a four-way stop there. They’ll get run over bya car before they get to the train tracks.'”

Evans said the next step is for the architect to finish thedrawings and they will be presented to the city and to the board ofhealth.

“All we’re doing now is waiting for the architect to finish thedrawings, I told them I’d do anything they said I have to do,”Evans said. “When I get these other plans up here, they should givefinal approval, but they’ve got to have all my plans. I’m going tomeet all the criteria anyway.”

Currie said she and Hyde-Smith are going to monitor the demandsput on Evans by the board of health, calling their arbitrarygoverning of the development “ridiculous.”

“This is not a requirement, if someone doesn’t like the placethey don’t have to live there,” she said. “This is an assistedliving facility, people are free to come and go at will, and theychose this place because they can walk over to the Inez and eat,they can walk to church, or to go shopping. But if they don’t likeit they don’t have to move in.”