Aldermen OK variances for living facility

Published 6:50 pm Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soon, elderly Brookhavenites will have a place to live wherethey can walk to church, to the bus stop, to find a bite to eat, orjust for exercise around the downtown area.

The much-debated assisted living facility proposed for the emptylot at 121 Monticello St. is now simply awaiting approval from theState Department of Health in order to break ground after aldermenon Tuesday granted a height variance and a special exception forfirst-floor therapy beds.

Ward Six Alderman David Phillips moved to approve the heightvariance with certain special conditions including a completionclause and a clause that insured continued use as an assistedliving facility, as well as an exterior compatibility clause.

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Phillips pointed out that the assisted living facility will benefitthe city in several ways. In addition to providing livingarrangements for citizens, he said, it creates a $7 millioninvestment in the downtown, it will bring in jobs, contribute tothe tax base, and bring revenue in to the city through venues suchas the water department.

“We haven’t had any ground-up construction over two stories in ourdowntown in 80-100 years,” Phillips said. “This is a specialbuilding, and it requires us to be more flexible.”

The motion passed 6-1, with Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell angrilyobjecting to the first-floor therapy rooms. He told the board byhis estimation, “everybody is wrong.”

“The board is making a terrible mistake to allow this in ourcentral business district,” said Maxwell, citing his belief thatthe facility would set a precedent for downtown first-floor living.”We’ve got letters in the file, people have sent letters becausethey’re worried about the future.”

In addition, Maxwell expressed his concern that the therapy bedswould become a situation where private pay patients can stayindefinitely.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said he initially had concernsabout the 66-foot height, which is 11 feet higher than cityordinance allows, but he is now satisfied that they have beenmet.

“(Brookhaven Fire) Chief (Tony) Weeks said they have a truck thatcan go up to 75 feet, and that set my mind at ease,” he said. “Idon’t have a problem with it.”

And Alderman at Large Karen Sullivan said she is confident thedownstairs beds do not qualify as living facilities as much astemporary therapy accommodations.

“When you move in, you take your belongings, and you put pictureson the wall, and that’s residency,” she said. “Downstairs in thetherapy rooms they won’t have that. It’s not a residence.”

The board also discussed recent trips by a group of city and countyofficials and local business people to visit the ProvidenceAssisted Living Facility in Senatobia, which is owned and built bycompany that is looking to place another assisted living facilityin Brookhaven.

“It was a first class operation,” Mayor Les Bumgarner said. “Italmost makes you want to sell your house and move in.”

Bumgarner said developers asked the Brookhaven and Lincoln Countycoalition what kind of things their facility would have to do tofit in, and said they had chosen Brookhaven as a possible newlocation for several reasons.

“They liked our leadership. They could have gone to McComb orNatchez, but they chose us,” he said. “We’re surviving and growingin a tough time, and we have a good working relationship with thecounty.”

Providence developers will ask the city for a zoning change fortheir proposed site, which is commercial now. They will ask for achange to R3, which is for multi-family residential, he said.

“This will have a huge impact,” said Phillips. “To have both ofthese facilities will be a big economic boost for our city.”