For Walter Chancey, owner of Chancey Design Partners, the road has been long toward achieving approval of his desire to build an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) here on Marco Island. However, professionals like Chancey naturally anticipate skepticism and challenges involved in the development of any type of healthcare facility.
In this case, the process became even more complicated when the original proposal to construct a larger facility that would have included independent living, assisted living and dementia care failed due to cynicism and doubt as to how it would affect neighbors and the peace and tranquility of a small community.
His group is now proposing a scaled down proposal with only 86 units and a maximum of 92 beds total, providing only assisted living and dementia care. Should the need for additional dementia care beds occur, those will come from the ALF portion of the facility. The facility will be only three stories high, not exceeding 35 feet. The Dementia Care Unit will be on the first floor of the building, and there is no “independent living” in the revised proposal. Watermark Communities, headquartered in Tucson, AZ, is partnering with the Chancey group to operate the proposed community. They currently manage 58 communities in 21 states.
The entire plot of land initially was donated by the Deltona Corporation to house a medical/hospital facility to service island residents. The existing Urgent Care Facility, which today is operated by NCH, was built and equipped through volunteer fund raising efforts of island residents. A plaque recognizing that committee can be found to the left of the entry doors of the present Urgent Care Center.
Chancey’s proposal requires approval to rezone the property from Commercial Professional C-1 to a Planned Unit Development (PUD) to allow for an assisted living and memory care facility, since there is no housing allowance within the city’s definition of a C-1 District. The change to a PUD would accommodate the need for residential units, a stumbling block when the initial proposal first came forward over a year ago.
As part of the new plan, five acres of the 11.5-acre property located at the intersection of Bald Eagle Drive and San Marco Road would be purchased from NCH Health Care, which presently owns that property in its entirety and operates the Urgent Care Facility, as well as Professional Medical Office Suites and a Physical Rehab facility on-site on the remaining land.
NCH has committed to utilize the monies gained from the sale of the property to build a new state–of–the–art Urgent Care Facility to service the Greater Marco Island population, which is seen as a large benefit to the Marco Island community.
In addition to that benefit, the Chancey Group is committed to developing a two acre “public open space” which will act as a “passive park” to service the community for relaxation. The area will also have a walkway along the waterfront for the enjoyment of residents of the ALF and the public. The developer will maintain that public space for two years and then deed the property over to the city. City staff has recommended that the developer maintain control of the open space and maintain it rather than turning it over to the city.
The city had received a few letters in opposition to the project, but only two members of the public chose to speak that morning prior to the committee’s vote. Brian Merklinghaus of 1140 San Marco Road spoke in opposition, concerned about the impact of traffic, the size of the building and the possible impact on the value of his property. Bernie Grechim rose to compliment Walt Chancey regarding his cooperation with the neighbors and listening to their concerns. She previously had been in opposition.
At the end of the hearing, the board voted 6-0 and to approve the project and changes to the zoning designation, and refer the matter to council.