Skilled Nursing Site On Maple Hits Roadblock

by CYNTHIA KMETT

It all seemed to be going smoothly for the proposed Regency at Troy Skilled Nursing Facility seeking preliminary site plan approval for an 8.23-acre site on Maple at the corner of Axtell. The facility would provide 152 beds for the skilled nursing side and 92 beds for assisted living, which would include memory care. The zoning is proper, IB (Integrated Industrial Business).

The developer had received Sustainable Design Project (SDP) status on November 17, 2016. Sustainable elements provided include a bioswale and rain garden area, four recharging stations for electric vehicle charging and lights placed on timers to reduce light pollution.

There was the question of whether or not Troy needed another nursing/rehab/assisted living facility. But it turns out you can’t build such a facility without a certificate of need from the State of Michigan. An aging population has made this type of facility ever more needed, and popular with developers.

There were a few things that Ben Carlisle of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, Inc. Troy’s planning consultant asked to be changed. Those included: Reducing the number of beds in the facility by five (5) to fit the size allowed on the site, providing at least a 20-foot rear yard setback, providing a direct pedestrian connection from Maple Road, providing a bicycle rack and planting trees on the Axtell greenbelt. As to what the trash enclosure would look like, the architect Roy Baker said it would match the building. Asked if it would have doors that closed automatically, something planners had only recently learned of, Baker said he never heard of them, but they sounded good. He agreed to all recommended changes.

There were some questions from planners about all the backed-up traffic on Maple to make left turns on southbound Coolidge, but that’s an Oakland County road and Troy does not get to decide how it’s configured. But as this is a nursing facility, not much peak hour traffic is anticipated.

There was one other thing Carlisle said the planners could consider: Address all design considerations raised by the Planning Commission based on review of the colored renderings, 3-D Model, and building material samples.

Well, several commissioners didn’t like the design, which Baker had said they tried to make residential in style. In fact, several planners called it too urban, bland, with the look of a dormitory. Baker said this was an industrial area, so styles like Georgian Colonial seemed not to fit.

When shown what the company’s Shelby facility, which opened last year, looked like, planners seemed inclined to want a style more like that, more residential looking, like Stonecrest, going up on Livernois near the dog park.

So far, so good. But then Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse told the group that operator Ciena Healthcare had been sued by the Michigan Attorney General for violations that resulted in a fine of over $1 million. She said she had concerns about the health, safety and welfare of those who might use the facility. That lawsuit was in 2007.

This led to a bit of a debate among members. Commissioner John Tagle, who is an architect by profession, said they were charged with the health, safety and welfare of the building as it relates to zoning. The Building Department has the duty to make sure the inside of the building is being operated safely. The state of Michigan is in charge of seeing that all is being done in the proper fashion for the patient’s health, safety and welfare. Baker noted that everyone gets the 800 number to call if there is a complaint and the state can come investigate any time it sees fit.

And, as Commissioner Philip Sanzica noted, this is a litigious society and if they turned down everyone who had ever faced a lawsuit, they wouldn’t need these meetings.

This facility is one of 36 such facilities operated by Ciena Healthcare, founded in 1998 by Mohammad Qzai and privately owned. Baker said that if you checked their ratings from users many of the facilities are rated five stars by residents and their relatives. In fact, seven of Ciena’s facilities were a 2016 National Quality Award winner for their dedication to improving the lives of residents through quality care. The awards are presented annually by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living.

However, the planners really would like a nicer façade on this center, and they would really like to talk to Mr. Qzai, so the vote on this plan is postponed until the new plans are forthcoming.