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Rockland Council to vote on contract zone for nursing home

By Stephen Betts | Aug 04, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Engineer Michael Sabatini holds concept plans for the proposed regional nursing home that would be located off Old County Road in Rockland during a July 7 meeting of the Rockland Planning Board. The City Council is scheduled to take a preliminary vote at its Aug. 10 meeting for a contract zone to allow for the project.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council is scheduled to take a preliminary vote Aug. 10 for a contract zone to allow a new regional nursing home to be built on Old County Road.

But councilors agreed they first want to set up a meeting at which neighbors can appear before the Council to voice their concerns.

Councilors met Aug. 3 to hear a presentation from developer Sandy River on the proposed senior care facility that would serve 90 to 110 residents. The new nursing home would replace the 84-bed Knox Center in Rockland and 39 nursing care beds at Quarry Hill in Camden.

A preliminary vote is scheduled for Aug. 10. A formal public hearing and final vote could then be held at the Sept. 14 meeting. If the contract zone is approved, the developer would need to get the project approved by the Rockland Planning Board.

The new 65,000-square-foot, one-story center would be taxable with a development cost of about $20 million. The amount of property taxes from the center would be about $300,000 annually.

The center would be located on 29 acres that Sandy Rivers owns on Cranberry Isles Drive which is located off the east side of Old County Road near the Rockport town line.

Councilor Valli Geiger said the project is "beautifully designed" and appears to be located where there will be a buffer between the building and neighbors. She also said the amount of traffic it would generate would not have much of an impact considering the amount of traffic already on Old County Road.

Geiger said there were questions that would need to be answered before the Planning Board if the zone gets approved such as noise and lighting.

Geiger said she wants to hear from neighbors, view the property and tour a similar facility built by Sandy River. The nearest one is Brunswick.

Councilor Ed Glaser said he wants to hear from neighbors in person rather than online. He said even if it takes an additional month to give final approval, he would support a delay in order to get in-person public comment.

Councilor Ben Dorr agreed, saying citizens should be able to stand up in front of their elected officials.

Dorr said there was a clear need for this type of facility as the community ages.

Neighbor Susan Barbour spoke at the Aug. 3 meeting via the online forum, saying this was not the proper location for such a large project.

Coastal Healthcare Alliance President Dr. Mark Fourre said the current operations at the Knox Center are not sustainable financially. He said Pen Bay Medical Center and MaineHealth are subsidizing the losses at the Knox Center but that cannot continue much longer.

The Knox Center has lost more than $5 million during the past five years.

Former Rockland Mayor Brian Harden pointed out he worked with a volunteer group of citizens in the early 1980s that worked to save the Knox Center when it was proposed to be closed due to financial losses.

Harden said if the Knox Center closes and the new center is not allowed in Rockland, the licenses for those nursing home beds could be shifted to locations outside of Knox County. Rockland needs these beds in the community, Harden said.

Fourre said no plans for what would be done with the Knox Center have been developed. He said, however, that affordable housing has been mentioned as a possibility. The healthcare administrator said Coastal Healthcare would work with the city on plans.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Aug 05, 2020 09:28

Trying to blame a new nursing facility for Traffic congestion on Old County Rd.  amounts to convicting the wrong suspect.  I live on Old County, the real issue is that we have allowed this newly improved byway to become an efficient Rockland BY-PASS as well as a quick way for ambulances to transport passengers to Pen Bay Medical Center.  In the Summer I count 10 to 20 large 10 yard dump trucks and other heavy construction vehicles per hour rumbling pass my house.   Block the roadway to thru traffic at Limerock st. and see who screems the loudest.  It won't be the residents of Old County.  A new Seniors facility that will serve over 100 clients is sourly needed as long as it's "not in my back yard".  Unfortunately that seems to be the case.  We need a facility like this.  What we don't need is a Rockland By-pass on Old County.  Put that truck traffic on Broadway for just one week and watch the backlash.  Susan if you want to do something about the traffic on OCR then tell your son (Jake Barbour) and your brother (Tim Hall, George Hall & sons) to stop using Old County Rd. for their Daily travels.

Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Aug 04, 2020 21:36

Hey Gerald, unless I misunderstood their presentation, I believe they had done a traffic study and thought their facility would add about 36 cars a day to the current 550 cars daily. I thought that seemed low for a 90-100 bed facility and wanted additional information to justify those numbers. If that is accurate, it is a reasonable number and likely less than a housing development on the same property.

Valli Geiger

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 04, 2020 20:11

We will needed more affordable housing as us natives get driven out of our homes by taxes.

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Aug 04, 2020 18:57

While Councilor Geiger may feel that the additional traffic may not have an impact, the City should require the developer to do a traffic study that actually uses data.

Posted by: George Terrien | Aug 04, 2020 09:40

I hope that one of the questions still to be answered before approving the zone change would be the capacity of public sewerage (if it is in fact already available in that neighborhood), both to serve the facility, and in the pumping and treatment before being dumped into the harbor.  And if not already available and sufficient to be accessed by the facility (which satisfaction I hope would be a condition imposed on the spot zone--call it "contract" zone, if that makes us feel better), I hope that the Council, with the Comprehensive Planning Commission, would discharge reservations about creating future demand for expansion of public sewerage.  Simply satisfying state requirements for on site disposal (likely sub-surface) should not extend least-worst expedient to address failing older systems as also satisfaction of public interest for new development for the long-term.

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