The Northampton Board of Supervisors rejected current plans by Eastern Shore Rural Health to combine the Franktown and Bayview centers into one location in Eastville. The BoS unanimously agreed with Supervisor Granville Hogg’s motion to send “questions and concerns” that had been raised during public comment to the planning commission. The proposal had been recommended by the Planning Commission for approval, however the Board is asking the Commission to go back and vet Rural Health’s proposal before the next regular meeting.
Before making the decision, the Board listened to a presentation by Rural Health’s CEO, Nancy Stern, “We have outgrown that facility (Franktown), and Bayview is also aging; the consolidation of these two centers brings a real opportunity for the economies of scale, when we pool together we can do more. Our Onancock and Chincoteague offices are open on Saturdays and we realized we had a good thing going. We were actually able to reduce emergency room use, we were able to triage and keep our patients out of the ER, and see them on Saturday. But, once again for the record, we are not urgent care, we are community health center providers sanctioned to provide outpatient primary care. But in this facility, we are going to offer ten hour days, as well as Saturday hours.”
During public comments, the majority of speakers were against the project.
James Sturgis, Mayor of Eastville, noted concerns about aquifer, as well as fire safety, “We understand Rural Health will be digging its own wells near the Shore’s (aquifer) spine, this is the recharge area of our sole source aquifer, its protection is paramount. A lack of linking this to the municipal water system would prevent the installation of fire hydrants…we currently have one of the best fire units in the county, it would a shame not to be able to offer them that safeguard. Retention ponds are required for large amounts of runoff associated with large parking lots, and amounts of impervious surface; they should not be located near residential areas with small children. Also, as the board is aware, Eastville has asked for a boundary adjustment, and this project directly within that adjustment area. The council and I would like to have a discussion and possible resolution on that matter prior to that project being approved.”
Eastville Volunteer Fire Chief David Eder echoed those concerns, “I’m here represent the fire company on two issues. The fire company was not contacted, about fire protection for that facility. I would be concerned if there is no hydrant…those are some of the issues the fire department is concerned with.”
Realtor David Kabler criticized the Planning Commission for not doing due diligence when reviewing the application, “The Cape Charles Medical Center is not accepting new patients. That is a big concern. I am a great supporter of this effort here, but I think it’s the wrong location. From looking at this, it is clear the Planning Commission did not do their job. I worked with Martina Coker, and Bob Meyers and Dave Fauber, and I’m telling you, we would have studied all of that, and we would not have made such a quick decision as they did. I’m wondering if they even did a site visit? That’s what it takes, getting out there, walking the property and checking out the traffic. We would have done a traffic study, we would have checked with the fire department, we would have checked with the town, we would not have passed it in one night. It is a perfect example of how dysfunctional the Planning Commission is, and I think their recommendation should not be considered. The Comp Plan does discourage Route 13 development, the present Comp Plan, it hasn’t been changed yet…I cannot live with myself thinking one accident could occur going in and out of a medical center. Somebody could get killed on Route 13 and I couldn’t live with myself. How can you possibly pass this without a traffic study? And the recharge spine is something we have to take very seriously.”
RH Myers, who has proposed a list of questions to be answered, also echoed a lack of confidence in the Commission, “I have addressed the Northampton Board of Supervisors about the dysfunction of your Planning Commission. This commission has demonstrated that positive change and improvement towards utilization of good zoning practices seems to be beyond their grasp.
“I have heard a number of concerns; most are with the location. Let me say to you Ms. Stern that the purview of this board is not to question the wisdom of a very dedicated and intelligent Rural Health organization, we are trying to stay within the guidelines of what we owe the public, I hope you understand that, we are not in any way questioning the value of Rural Health. It is very much part of our fabric. However, it’s the site—and I share the concerns of Route 13; I’m not opposed to all development on 13, but it has to be safe, it has to be sustainable, I think in terms of economic development, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration are going to have more to say about what we do than we are. 13 is an interstate…it may not be part of the interstate system, but it is an interstate. Chief Eder stops many, many going way over 90 miles an hour; stop some more because have too many empty cells in our jail. I hear the remarks of every that has voiced concerns…but I can’t worry about what DEQ does, I have to worry about public health and safety, and our citizens out on 13,” said Chairman Spencer Murray.