Raleigh Planning Commission members Tuesday approved a site plan that would expand an existing supportive care facility on North Rogers Lane.
Learning Services plans to construct a 6,000-square-foot center, which will provide daytime therapeutic services for residents of its inpatient facility and a limited number of outside clients.
Today, there is a small 12-bed facility on the site. When construction is complete, there will be four rest homes and one special care facility on the 5-acre site. In total, the new buildings will hold 36 new residents in addition to the 12 already there for a total of 48.
Planning Commission approval is only required for the special care facility offering the daytime services.
Learning Services provides services and housing for people with brain damage. The day facility will provide traditional therapy, occupational therapy, recreational therapy and other clinics that help patients work toward independence.
Eugene Canegata, a resident who lives across the street from the proposed development, said in ongoing discussions between Learning Services and the community, neighbors never got a straight answer as to how many patients will be served at the property.
According to city code, there can be no more than 51 enrollees at the center — whether they live on the property or not.
Canegata said it is unclear whether that number is in addition to the 36 new residents or including the 36 residents. If that's in addition, there could be 99 people using this day facility, but not at one time.
“The only concern we have is: Does your 51 enrollees include the 36 [residents]?” Canegata asked representatives from Learning Services. "These numbers keep growing. What is the end number?”
The neighborhood has compromised on everything else relating to the development, he said, but they did not want a day facility because it will create a commercial-like environment in a residential neighborhood.
Robin Currin, an attorney representing Learning Services, said they are willing to condition the number of non-resident clients that can receive services by the facility.
Learning Services agreed to cap the amount of clients using the day facility to the 48 residents and 10 additional people who live off the grounds.
The Planning Commission unanimously approved the site plan.
North Raleigh Church Ignores Appearance Commission Comments
Also Tuesday, Raleigh Planning Commissioners deferred a decision for a site plan of a North Raleigh church expansion to give the design team more time to include comments that were made by the Appearance Commission.
Leaders at the First Assembly of God Church want to add a 44,075-square-foot addition to the existing 45,700-square-foot facility located off of Blue Ridge Road west of Glen Eden Drive.
According to plan documents, the extra building space will be used for religious education.
They also want to construct a 49,050-square-foot parking lot.
The main concern from the Planning Commission is that the church did not include in its plan any of the recommendations made by the Appearance Commission. The Appearance Commission makes an initial review of site plans that later must be approved by the Planning Commission.
Developers and designers don't need to include the Appearance Commission's recommendations, but it is strongly encouraged that they do.
In this case, the Appearance Commission recommended additional landscaping, shorter lamp posts and horizontal screenings for the rooftop mechanical units.
Commission Isabel Mattox said, “They’re essentially ignoring the Appearance Commission’s comments.”
While only 124 parking spaces are required for the church, the proposal includes 480.
Resident Deborah Siler lives next to the church and expressed concerns about the parking lot expansion. The trees that separate her property from the church are only now tall enough to block some of the light coming from the 30-foot lamp posts in the existing lot.
She said she is also concerned with stormwater runoff and potential flooding caused by the expansion of an impervious surface.
"I think they have a massive amount of parking already," Siler said.
Church representatives said they will consider the Appearance Commission’s comments when the project moves forward. They will have a better idea of how the recommendations could be worked into the budget at a later time, they said.
As for the light fixtures, they said they are working with Progress Energy to provide the additional lighting. Shorter lights mean more are required.
The Appearance Commission recommended lights shorter than 25 feet.
“More fixtures doesn’t necessarily mean a greater cost to the church,” said Commissioner Steven Schuster.
Progress Energy will provide the lights; the church will pay for the electricity.
Schuster said he understands budgets are tight, but is concerned about the lack of compromise. The changes, he said, would be a small part of the overall project budget.
Church representatives said they are amenable to including some of the commission’s recommendations.
Commissioners debated whether they should list some conditions that the designers would have to adhere to or if they should come back in two weeks with a site plan that includes the changes.
Mattox said that there would be too many conditions and it would be better if church representatives came back for a clean review.
Commissioner Waheed Haq said he thought it was unfair to send the design team back to the drawing board after putting more than a year of work into the process.
The commission ultimately decided to delay a decision in order for the church to include some of the recommendations made by the Appearance Commission. The issue will be heard again at the next meeting Jan. 22.