Planning commission reviews zoning request for assisted living facility

Published 8:00 pm Saturday, August 9, 2014

Thursday night the City of Brookhaven planning commission met to discuss the petition for special use for an assisted living facility on Silver Cross Drive.

The property is currently owned by Central Baptist Church, but Advanced Healthcare Management has a contract to purchase the land if approval is given for special use.

The property is currently in an R-1 zone and is part of the Meadowbrook neighborhood. Chip Gennaro, city building inspector, said R-1 zones are the most restrictive, allowing only single-family homes to be built there. The R-1 zone does allow for certain community amenities, such as churches or parks, to be built if the planning commission and the board of aldermen approve the special exemption.

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The assisted living facility would not qualify for special exemption under the R-1 restrictions, but the planning commission can choose to give the lot under consideration S-1 distinction. According to Gennaro, S-1 would not rezone that area, nor would it allow for other commercial properties to come into the area without going through the same process Advanced Healthcare is currently undergoing.

Originally, Advanced Healthcare did plan on petitioning for the area to be rezoned to R-3. Joe Stephens, representing Advanced Healthcare’s interest at the meeting, said the group decided to apply for S-1 instead after speaking with residents in the area. Residents voiced concern with the future impact of a rezoning, and Stephens said they believed S-1 would offer the residents more protection.

Petitioning for S-1 is not the same as petitioning for rezoning because the area currently zoned as R-1 will remain R-1. Even the property in question will have to abide by the ordinance restrictions of the R-1 zone, with the sole exception to build a property for assisted living.

Gennaro said with S-1 distinction, Advanced Healthcare is opening itself up to management by the city. The facility will be monitored by the planning commission and board of aldermen every step of the way. Don Harrigill, a member of the planning commission, stressed the obligation Advanced Healthcare would be under if the petition was approved.

“It could be like a bad marriage, except it could be worse because you can’t get a divorce,” he said.

Stephens said they had every intention of abiding by the mandates given by the city.

Dave Pace, planning commission member, asked if the S-1 was denied, would Advanced Healthcare look elsewhere in Brookhaven. Stephens said the prospective location is ideal due to the proximity to medical care. He also said assisted living communities are also restricted by such things as railroads.

In the Mississippi Department of Health’s Minimum Standards for Personal Care Homes: Assisted Living says, “Location. All facilities and licensed facilities shall be located so that they are free from undue noise, smoke, dust, or foul odors and shall not be located adjacent to disposal plants, railroad tracks, etc.” in section 117.02.

Gennaro said within currently existing R-3 zones, two lots are undeveloped and for sale. However, one is adjacent to a railroad and the other is across the street and within 500 feet at the closest point, according to Gennaro.

If the S-1 is approved, Advanced Healthcare Management will have one to begin building. If they have not begun by the deadline, the S-1 designation will be removed. Also, if Advanced Healthcare were to sell the property in the future, the buyer would have to continue operation as an assisted living facility or get board approval for S-1 designation for any other use.

Shelley Harrigill, attorney, recorded the minutes for the board. She said the petition objection contained 87 signatures, and 52 people signed in at the hearing. However, as of press time, she had not been able to review the lists in detail.

Martha Arrington, representing the Meadowbrook community, voiced concern over a potential drop in property value and implications for the future. She said 100 percent of the Meadowbrook community are against the S-1 designation.

“First of all, there was no mistake in the original zoning, nor has the character of the neighborhood changed,” she said. “We do not see that this commercial venture would advance our neighborhood or its property value.”

Pat Allen, a member of the community, spoke about the high need for such a facility in Brookhaven. She said on her church’s prayer list there were 21 of their seniors in nursing or assisted living homes outside of Brookhaven.

“We are losing a generation of these citizens, and we’re actually losing their money,” she said. “There’s a great public need for this assisted living home.”

Allen quoted statistics discussing the ever-increasing population of those over 60 years old. The entrance to the facility will be from Silver Cross Drive and will not affect the traffic. Allen also stressed the convenience of the nearby medical facilities. She said she believes it will fit into the character of the neighborhood.

“I’m a citizen that has elderly parents. I’m not a nursing home expert,” she said. “They should be great neighbors. They will probably be people you know, your friends. It could be my parents, and they are very nice I promise.”

The planning commission will meet Thursday, Aug. 14 at 5:30 p.m. in the city boardroom to vote. After the vote, either side will be able to file an appeal. The petition has to be filed within 10 days. The Board of Aldermen can hold their own hearing and make a final decision.

If the planning commission votes in favor and no appeal is filed, the approval for S-1 will go before the board as part of their consent agenda at the next regular meeting.

Advanced Healthcare Management, based in Magee, currently leases and operates Silver Cross Home in Brookhaven.