Marco Island residents turned out in force on Tuesday evening to have their voices heard regarding a proposal to build a “modified CCRC” on property presently owned by the Naples Community Hospital at the intersection of Bald Eagle Drive and San Marco Road.
“All of our research shows us that there is a need for this type of facility within this community,” said Walt Chancey, the Managing Partner of Chancey Design Partnership from Tampa, Florida. Since last summer the Chancey Design Partnership, along with CW Development Partners and Watermark Communities, have been working diligently to answer questions and deal with concerns of residents regarding their proposal to build this type of facility on Marco.
The only type of care which would not be offered with their proposal would be “skilled nursing care.” Only one LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) would be available per each eight-hour shift. Those LPNs would be augmented with personal care assistants.
The petitioners would join in a PUD agreement with NCH to purchase a five-acre portion of the 11.4 acres which were given to NCH for hospital care for island residents in the mid-80s. Residents would raise the monies to build and equip today’s Urgent Care Facility, which is presently on that 11.4-acre tract of land.
The five million dollars paid for the five-acre tract would be utilized by NCH to build an entirely new and updated Urgent Care Center. The remaining land would be developed by NCH in the future.
The Chancey group had initially presented plans to construct a four story, 50-foot-high building, that had 206 units. The facility would vary between two bedroom and single bedroom units. The number of those units would be split between Independent, Assisted Living and a small number of Memory Care Units, which could vary between 300 and 1,600 square feet.
To satisfy the community concerns, the developer made a second proposal to bring the total height of the buildings down to 40 feet and only three floors. They would also limit the number of units to a total of 166 units and beds to not exceed a total of 220. Their second plan showed 71 of the larger Independent Living Units, 68 of the Assisted Living Units and 29 of the Memory Care Units.
A third offer came to the surface on Tuesday, as Walt Chancey proposed but another option for council consideration. In this most recent proposal the petitioner took the wraps off his most recent proposition to only build 143 units, with a maximum of 187 beds. This would mark a 59-unit reduction in the number of rooms since they began proposing the project.
Teri Summerfield, a vocal opponent of the proposal would rise to defend her reputation which she believed has been attacked by the petitioner. She holds licenses as a registered nurse, a registered rehabilitation nurse and a licensed nursing home in Illinois and over 40 years of experience in the health care industry. She would go on to speak about the staffing needs and the crisis in skilled health care personnel.
“I think 187 beds is to large,” said Summerfield. “A small assisted living component can be part of a comprehensive plan, but a massive Assisted Living Facility, operated by a for-profit entity should not be the overarching answer to aging on Marco,” said Summerfield.
Dolores Hoenes from the Villas of Waterside on Bald Eagle Drive, which would abut the property being proposed to be developed, would rise to point out issues dealing with traffic, noise and congestion that she felt would accompany the project. She would go on to question the safety of its residents. “Locating an ALF on a barrier island just does not make sense,” said Hoenes.
She would urge council to vote no on the approval of the plans presented. “The rents will be higher than those found at other off-island facilities, making it only affordable to the wealthiest,” said Hoenes.
Mary Lou Mason would come forward to support the petitioners’ proposal. She pointed out the advantages of evacuating individuals from a facility such as being proposed, versus hundreds of individuals receiving in-home care.
“I’ve made that trip up to visit my husband off the island, during rain and darkness to visit my husband. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, think of this when you vote,” said Mason.
Bonnie Woodward would speak to her experiences when it came time to deal with her personal situation dealing with her parents as they aged and needed additional care but refused to leave the island and leave their friends. Her mother would eventually pass and then would her father within two months.
“Both would have benefited from the socialization found in a facility similar to the one being proposed and not shut away,” said Woodward.
Speaker after speaker would come forward and several them would explain they were not in opposition to facilities such as this, only that they felt the location was not appropriate for several reasons.
Around 9:30 PM the public hearing was gaveled to a close and council began its deliberations. Vice Chairman Victor Rios and Councilor Sam Young would spearhead the opposition to the proposal. Rios would even suggest that a referendum be held within the community to allow residents to vote on the proposal. That suggestion would draw an immediate caution from the City Attorney who would advise council that state law prohibited that action.
“I don’t want to go back and play lets make a deal as the Planning Board did, I want to bring this to a vote tonight,” said Councilor Young.
Councilor Howard Reed would compliment the Watermark facilities that he visited in a fact-finding trip to Sarasota but would criticize what he thought was a misleading portfolio by the petitioner as to the level of care that would be available. “There will be only one LPN per shift for this entire facility,” said Reed. He would go on to explain the differences between an LPN and a RN and their capabilities.
It would be Councilor Charlette Roman who would speak of the human aspect of the debate, and her personal experiences meeting people throughout the island, and her surprise as to the differing qualities of life she witnessed.
“The support systems for our seniors on our island need to be looked at and improved. I know there are organizations and groups have taken on that challenge but more needs to be done,” said Roman.
“Tonight, this discussion is not about assisted living, it is about the project before us,” said Roman. She was concerned about the process and lack of citizens’ input and their feelings that this was being “pushed through.”
Last minute changes which have not had review of city staff, residents or council was a serious concern of hers. “I am very disappointed in how this has unfolded,” said Roman.
Chairman Brechnitz would speak to several issues he had with the document that was before the council.
Councilor Larry Honig would ask the Chairman if a motion would be in order to either reapply or come back with changes. He would bring that motion forward to continue the matter until March 4 and it was supported by a second to the motion by Councilor Jared Grifoni.
Councilor Reed would comment that the residents would see this as an effort to simply “wear them down.”
That motion would fail 4-3 with only Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz, Grifoni and Honig voting to continue the matter to March 4.
This would result in an angry response from Councilor Honig. “I seriously resent the veiled insult by Councilor Reed that I jerked the citizens around.” “My intent was to give the applicant an opportunity to respond to the questions raised,” said Honig.
This would cause the audience to negatively respond, wherein Honig admonish the audience, “Audience would you cut this out, I am on council and you are not,” said Honig. He went on to defend his record of responding to their emails and phone calls. “I believe we owe it to these people who are willing to spend their money and time and do something constructive for Marco Island to hear them out,” said Honig.
Honig would then move to approve the ordinance, that motion would fail 6-1 with only Councilor Honig voting in favor. An attempt by Councilor Grifoni to reconsider that vote which killed the ordinance was ruled a non-starter by the city attorney.
Although the ordinance was defeated on first reading, the petitioner may appeal the council’s rejection within 10 days of that vote. Should the petitioner choose not to appeal the vote, they would have to wait one year before bringing the issue back before council.