Thursday, October 1, 2020

Letter: FACTS Regarding the Proposed Watermark Assisted Living Facility


Letter from Walt Chancey, Architect and Development Partner in the Watermark at Marco Island Assisted Living Facility

FACTS Regarding the Proposed Watermark Assisted Living Facility at the NCH Campus located at San Marco Road and Heathwood Drive

Dear Residents of Marco Island,

My name is Walt Chancey, I am the Architect and Development Partner in the Watermark at Marco Island Assisted Living Facility. I have been receiving calls from residents and seeing mis-information printed about our project and on the Assisted Living industry in general therefore, I want to clarify certain issues surrounding this project. The following is an outline of facts regarding the proposed facility.

The Facility & Levels of Care

The entire facility at The Watermark at Marco Island will be a Licensed Assisted Living Facility (ALF) with the State of Florida, through the Agency for Healthcare Administration. There are 206 total proposed units which offer three levels of service in a four story all-concrete-structure building. Levels of service will include care for those who require special needs due to issues with memory loss from Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementia (Memory Care) as well as accommodations for residents who require assistance with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing and medications (Assisted Living). In addition, units will be provided for seniors who are more independent in their day to day lives and can generally care for themselves and/or their spouses today but desire easy access to supportive services. These three levels of support service constitute a supportive “Continuum of Care Community” that permits seniors to age in place gracefully with the services and programs they desire and need.

Demographics & Amenities

The average age for Assisted Living Residents in Florida today is 86 years. The average age for those in a Florida Independent Living Facility is 83 years. We expect our residents’ ages will align closely with the State’s average. In our other Florida facilities, the memory care and assisted living units are generally occupied by a single resident (more than 95% of the time). In the more independent units the profile is about 1/3 couples and 2/3 singles. Often the loss of a spouse is a major motivator for a senior to seek out a senior living community such as the one we are proposing. The community will provide three meals a day plus snacks along with an array of amenities. Full amenities associated with ALF’s and Continuing Care facilities will be provided such as health and rehabilitation, meeting rooms for religious services, community education, activities and gatherings and transportation services for those who no longer can, or wish to drive. Also provided are arts and crafts, a hair salon and an exercise & wellness facility. Outdoor areas include gardens, pathways, and a ramp-accessible swimming pool that will be used intensely for water exercise.

Planned Urban Development & Shared Medical Campus

The facility will be located on 5 of the 12 total acres of the Naples Community Hospital Medical Campus. This property has always been designated for a Hospital or Medical (including Nursing Home) campus. As the level of care permitted in assisted living today has expanded, Assisted Living facilities have replaced much of the services traditionally provided in nursing homes. This is the most appropriate location for this type of senior housing facility on Marco Island. NCH and this developer have, at the suggestion of City Staff and City Attorney, submitted a Planned Unit Development (PUD) that will tie the campus together into a common Medical and Assisted Living Community for Seniors. These uses complement each other and provide synergies through their proximity to each other and the shared campus design. The campus will provide common open space elements, connecting pathways, common landscape, lighting and site elements as required by the PUD.

This project is not related to the other proposed Assisted Living project of 81 units on 1.3 acres (+/- 62 units per acre) on South Barfield Drive. Our proposed density is +/- 17 units per acre. Our project approvals do not give blanket density conversions for Marco Island or provide allowance for any other facility, nor does it give approval for any other type of group housing such as drug rehab and the like. Our PUD is site-specific and carefully designed for our property’s proposed uses. The PUD review and approval process allows for public scrutiny and the ability for the City to control project details and impose limitations and conditions.

In addition to an aging Urgent Care building, NCH has a 25,000 square foot Medical Office Building (MOB) on the site currently. NCH has committed, in a letter to MICA, that the sale proceeds from the ALF property will be used to construct a brand new 12,000 square foot state-of-the art Urgent Care facility on its campus. This new facility will approximately double the exam rooms and capacity of the current building. The PUD also allows for up to two additional Medical Buildings that can, in the future, add up to 50,000 additional square feet of Medical Office to the Campus.

It is noted that the project is proposed to allow 50 feet in height as regulated by Marco Island Codes. Current Zoning calls for a 35-foot height but currently buildings can be 50 feet as an approved Conditional Use. This developer has exceeded all setbacks and open space requirements to adjust for the height.

Facility Operator & Project Costs

Watermark Retirement Communities is one of the nations most respected and the 13th largest provider of senior care with approximately 10,000 beds under management across 52 communities throughout Florida and 20 other states. This Watermark Assisted Living Facility alone has a total cost of $64,500,000.00! This project will be developed and run by seasoned professionals, who are well capitalized and experienced in the Senior Living Market.

Market Study Information

The need for this facility has been questioned publicly by some members of the Planning Board and City Council. The Developer/Operator has had several public meetings and has heard from many, many residents supporting the need and the desire for this facility with almost no-one against it! We have had Integra Realty Resources, one of the country’s best known and respected senior living market research consultants, complete an extensive market research study. The market study used a 5-mile radius from this site for the Primary Market Area (PMA) and it indicated that there is a current annual demand for 77 memory care beds, 209 assisted living beds, and 318 units for Independent Living. Both the need and demand are extremely strong for Marco Island! Based on our research there are currently four Home Health Care companies which we estimate are serving hundreds of Marco residents today. While Home Health Care may provide for some of a senior’s health and rehabilitation needs it does not meet the social needs of a senior who craves interaction with peers, continued education and a wide array of activities. Those whose needs are not best suited for home health care must leave Marco to find the services they, or their spouse require or desire as they age. The market study proves there is an immediate need for an ALF on Marco Island. It should be the right of every citizen to age with dignity and to obtaining the level of care and services they need and deserve without having to leave their community. The idea that this facility immigrates a large number of residents from off-island is simply not accurate. We expect very few residents coming from Naples or beyond. The demand estimates approximately 10% or less of our residents will come from off the Island. In addition, we propose to give a first-priority to existing residents of Marco when initially leasing the facility.

Traffic Impact

The impact transportation and trips generated by an Assisted Living Facility is one of the lowest of all development uses, and most likely far lower than any other development use that could occur “by right” on this property. Virtually no memory care nor assisted living residents drive a car. Only about half of the more independent residents on average own an automobile, but these generate very few trips due to our regular scheduled and on-demand transportation provided by the facility. Trips are mostly generated by staff and visitors, which will have a minimal impact. Our Transportation Impact Study has been submitted to the City and is available for public review. Also note with this Assisted Living Facility, that there is no impact on schools, extremely little on public parks and beaches and a low impact on utilities and other public infrastructure.

Emergency Management & Hurricane Evacuation Plan

Concerning Hurricane Evacuation; the development team has submitted in their PUD Application to City Staff, the document “The Watermark at Marco Island Senior Living Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Plan”. This 100-page document details how the residents of the facility will be evacuated well in advance of a hurricane in the area. The evacuation procedure as noted will take place 72 hours in advance of a storm making landfall or at the request/mandate of an evacuation by Emergency Management Officials, whichever is sooner. The evacuation will be led by numerous trained professional staff members. This option will be much faster, safer, and more efficient than if these seniors were trying to evacuate on their own, or by family coming onto the island to get them. Think of those hundreds using Home Health Care and how they need to evacuate on their own or receive assistance, possibly from off-island services. It was also shown in information provided to City Staff and the Planning Board, that there are numerous Assisted Living Facilities located on other barrier Island and in flood zones and velocity zones throughout the state.

Proper Emergency Management is the solution to allowing these facilities in these locations. The idea that a Senior Living facility is not warranted on Marco due to Hurricane evacuation is completely unjust for the aging population on Marco. It should be the right of all citizens of Marco to live out their lives with dignity in their community and in an Assisted Living Facility if necessary. If that path of thinking is followed, then should children and the disabled who also need assistance in evacuating not be allowed to live on Marco Island? This path is discriminatory to the Senior Citizen who may desire a group housing scenario or require Assisted Living.

The Watermark Emergency Preparedness and Evacuation Plan (the “Plan”) addresses in complete detail how the evacuation will be prepared for, performed, and how the safety and welfare of the residents will be protected. This Plan will first be reviewed and approved by the local Fire Marshall and then sent to the Collier County Emergency Management Department for approval. Collier County verifies that the Plan not only meets all the County’s regulations, but also those of the State of Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA). These approvals are updated annually so that the plan is continually examined by the Life Safety Officials.

The approvals include the review of the detailed Transportation Plan and contracts with authorized transportation companies, as well as the annual agreements with the Evacuation Sites (such as other sister” Assisted Living Facilities). It also includes food purveyors’ contracts for services during the emergency period. Please note that Watermark Operates four other large communities in Sarasota, Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Seminole Counties, and the developers own two additional Florida Communities, ensuring that, a sister property will always be available.

Additional Benefits to the Community

The Watermark is giving back to the community by offering an approximate 600foot long Public Linear Park along the waterfront of the site. At the suggestion of one Council Member, a rest area for walkers and bikers, complete with a bike repair component, will be also constructed at the entry to this park on San Marco Road. All citizens will have access to this beautiful walking and passive waterfront park.

In Conclusion

This is the right site for the proven need of an Assisted Living Facility on Marco. This site provides the least impact and has the greatest benefit to the community Approval of this PUD is a win-win for the Community of Marco Island. NCH and this developer have worked very hard with City Staff and the Planning Board for over a year. The development and management team has continually listened to and followed guidance from the City to endeavor to “get this right” for Marco Island. We ask that our project be reviewed using facts and proper data, submitted in our PUD which is of public record. We ask that our Planning Board and our Council members review the submittal closely and that they vote on this PUD based on facts and proper research of the Assisted and Senior Living industry. We are happy to provide any assistance in getting the information to any interested party. We also ask you, the Citizens of Marco, to reach out to your elected officials and let them know that you support this facility and that you will support those officials who support the needs of the aging population of Marco Island. I can be reached for any additional information at wchancey@chanceydesign.com or by phone at 813-739-6100.

Thank you,

Walt Chancey

One response to “Letter: FACTS Regarding the Proposed Watermark Assisted Living Facility”

  1. Janet Miniutti says:

    Will this facility be for Marco only residents?

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