Friday, December 07, 2012

Friendship nursing home plan for Roanoke County discussed

Residents of southwest Roanoke County voiced concerns about several aspects of the proposal.

Residents living near a proposed new inpatient rehabilitation center in southwest Roanoke County expressed concerns about traffic and noise at a community meeting Thursday.

To address the fears of increased traffic nearby, the neighboring Friendship Retirement Community has made slight changes to its plans for its proposed 120-bed nursing home on Starkey Road. Still, community members worried that the center's employees, residents and visitors would only exacerbate the congestion in the already growing region of the county.

"It's going to change our property visually, with traffic and noise," said Warren Coburn, whose home is adjacent to the 10-acre site for Friendship's proposed facility.

Friendship has asked the county to change the property's zoning from residential to commercial, and is also seeking special use permits to allow the nursing home and future "life care" services like assisted living.

The zoning process is just one in a long list of approvals Friendship must obtain in order to build the new center. In addition to garnering county permission, Friendship must also get state approval to build the new nursing home. Friendship has submitted a request with the Virginia Department of Health to relocate 120 of the 373 beds at its existing nursing home on Hershberger Road.

Even as residents shared anecdotal stories of waiting several minutes to turn onto Starkey Road, or of traffic jams at peak hours, county officials said a recent traffic count didn't indicate that the nursing home would warrant adding a traffic light or widening the road.

"Traffic counts weren't that high," said Tara Pattisall, the county planner who led the community meeting.

Pattisall added that Friendship may ultimately be required to add turning lanes near the entrance to its new center.

Friendship has a contract to purchase the land for $1.85million pending the various county and state approvals needed to build the facility.

While the nursing home would be licensed by the state to offer long- and short-term care for patients, Friendship is interested in focusing this new center on meeting the short-term rehabilitation needs of patients recovering from various orthopedic surgeries such as joint replacements, said Friendship President and CEO Russ Barksdale.

Building the new facility fits with Friendship's broader business plan to expand its presence into southwest Roanoke County, Barksdale has said.

The Starkey Road proposal comes as Friendship has also sought to extend its reach into Salem, having taken over management of a Salem independent and assisted living facility this fall.

The single-story facility on Starkey would feature private rooms and would take up to two years to construct, Barksdale said.

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