Assisted living facility asks for extension
Published 11:15 am Thursday, June 18, 2015
The assisted living center currently on deadline to be built in Brookhaven has grown from original facility estimates, based on what Advanced Healthcare Management says will best fit the needs of the community.
At Tuesday night’s Board of Aldermen meeting, Advanced Healthcare Management requested an extension of six months on its special zoning exemption. Chief Operating Officer for AHM Mike Cunningham said they believe they will probably make their Aug. 19 deadline to begin construction, but they are seeking the extension because of a chance it will not be met.
“The reason for the request is the scope of our project has changed since we first proposed it,” Cunningham said. “We first proposed a building of about 44 beds of regular assisted living. But we began listening to the community and talking to the community and also doing some additional demographical studies, and we’ve concluded that we need to do a much larger facility here.
“What we’re planning to do now is a 24-bed memory care unit, we didn’t propose any memory care beds initially, and 48 regular assisted living beds,” Cunningham continued. “So we’ve gone from 44 beds to 72 beds. […] Gone from a $2.5 million investment to a $5 million investment. So we certainly think that our new facility is going to much better serve the community and the surrounding areas, and really fill some needs that are not being met. So that’s the reason for the delay, but again we’re not anticipating much of a delay.”
The facility will be built on Silver Cross Drive behind Central Baptist Church in the Meadowbrook neighborhood. Obstacles arose during the initial planning phase because the property is in an R-1 zone, which is the most restrictive and allows only single-family homes to be built in it. Other obstacles included restrictions regarding proximity to railroads and hospitals that made it hard for the facility to be placed in another area of the city.
After talks with the City of Brookhaven’s planning commission, Advanced Healthcare Management decided to pursue S-1 distinction. This distinction does not rezone the area and only affects the one lot in question. The distinction also limits use to an assisted living facility. In the future, the building and lot could only be used for another purpose by receiving approval from the city.
The board granted the S-1 distinction last year, at the city planning commission’s recommendation, for the assisted living facility to be built by Advanced Healthcare Management Inc.
With a vote of 5-2, the board decided to allow the distinction. Conditions were given that all S-1 requirements are met before the final plat is approved and actual S-1 designation is given.
Advanced Healthcare Management was given one year to begin building. The original agreement stated that if construction did not begin by the deadline, the S-1 designation would be removed. In January, Joe Stephens said that plans would be presented to the city by the end of February. As of now no final plans have been seen by the board, and AHM has a laundry list of tasks to complete before the deadline.
Considering the tension surrounding the initial decision to allow the S-1 designation and green-light to build the facility, some on the board voiced concerns that AHM was not holding up their end of the bargain. Mayor Joe Cox acknowledged the concern and said he understood both sides, but the board would have to look into whether they can legally extend the exemption and approve AHM’s request.
City Attorney Joe Fernald said the question comes up because of the changes that have been made.
“They’ve changed the concept completely, they’re on deadline, and a special exception is just that, it’s a special exception,” Fernald said. “Now if nobody objected to it that would be different, but there was a full-blown hearing with objections and taxpayers upset and all that. Now we’re changing what we agreed to do because they’re late and they’ve had a year to do this.
“I’m not getting on to them, everybody knows things are tough all over, but they’ve known for a year what they had to; do now we’re down to the last six or 8 weeks and they want us to give them more time,” Fernald said. “We could probably have a hearing and extend it another year but my concern is: do the people that objected have a right to object again?”
Aldermen said that no one is against the idea of the facility and the greater good it will do for the city, but rather that there is a due process that must be followed especially when an issue is highly contested. Some members of the board said that they wanted to do anything within the board’s power to facilitate the building, while others spoke on behalf of residents who opposed the construction in the first place.
“It would help us, and I hope you can appreciate our position, if you made some effort to move this forward,” said Ward 6 Alderman David Phillips. “If we had a planning meeting, you did your preliminary plan, if you were moving forward on purchasing the land — things like that. And then come back here in six weeks and ask for an extension. […] I don’t know if y’all made the effort to convince us that things are moving forward. We want this property, […] but we need some good faith effort on your part that it’s [progressing.]”
AHM said they are working towards purchasing the property but have to get it surveyed and complete a deed of trust before they can close and begin. They also presented a recent version of a plan and changes that have been incorporated to the board. The board said it would need to see what it can do, and that they would resume discussions about a possible extension once that happens.