Residents push back on zoning request for mental health facility

by Laura Bednar

Aug. 28 zoning commission meeting

Representatives of New Aurora Health Center argued before the Sagamore Hills zoning commission that operating an addiction and mental health facility at 997 W. Aurora Rd. meets the same requirements as the Elmcroft assisted living facility that formerly occupied the site.

Al Schrader, attorney with Roderick Linton Belfance, said the facility would have two components: an outpatient facility, like a doctor’s office, for patients receiving counseling and other services, and a residential facility for patients staying for an extended period.

Schrader said if the land has a prior conditional use for residential, that use “runs with the land” and is valid when the property is sold. David Randolph, attorney with Schrader’s firm, cited Ohio Supreme Court cases which set that precedent.

“The only difference between the previous senior homes [and the new facility] is it’s a different kind of patient,” said Schrader, adding that there is a two-year statute of limitations on the conditional use remaining active.

Township attorney Jeff Snell disagreed that the facility conveys the same use as Elmcroft, adding that a zoning permit is required for the outpatient facility.

Kevin Strong, New Aurora Health CEO, said the outpatient portion of the building would include treatment through activities, conversation, counselors and therapists to “enhance [patients’] ability to stay clean.” It would also offer therapy to families of patients battling addiction.

The residential portion would have rooms in hallways angled from the lobby, which Strong said would be blocked off for safety. The site would include a courtyard around the building that Schrader said “is not going to be intrusive.”

The facility will host multiple group therapy sessions for 12 to 20 patients simultaneously. Strong said the building could be open until 8:30 p.m. to accommodate those who work during the day. Daily meetings would take place Monday through Friday with limited activities on Saturday.

The age range of patients would be 18 to potentially 70. The maximum age had not been decided.

From 60 to 80 people could visit as outpatients, but not in one day. In some cases, people could be sent to the facility through court order. Zoning commission member Peter Lachina said if someone doesn’t want to be there, then they won’t. Strong said if someone does not want to be there, they will leave after the required time ordered by the court.

Resident comments

Resident Carol Oudeman asked what the qualifications were for employees. Strong said there would be doctors, nurse practitioners and social workers on site as well as caseworkers to help patients enter work programs or manage insurance. The facility requires licensure with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Resident Steve Hapanowicz asked from which communities patients would come and stated his concern about the facility’s need for Sagamore police when the department is already short-staffed.

Schrader said ambulances and police visited Elmcroft when elderly people needed medical attention. Strong said police and fire are already responding to drug-related calls, so the facility would not increase the number of calls, and first responders would have a place to take those affected. He added that on-site personnel would be trained to administer Narcan, an over-the-counter opioid overdose treatment.

Denny Wilson, mental health and addiction recovery specialist, said the majority of patients would come from the northern cities of Summit County, including Sagamore Hills. The initial focus would be Summit County, but the goal is to offer services to anyone in the state, according to Wilson.

Resident Lana Charney asked about security. Strong said there will be cameras, personnel and RFID surveillance, which is radio frequency identification that uses wireless communication to identify a tagged object, according to Resident Ralph Charney said he was worried about the type of people who would drop off patients at the facility and the crime it could bring to the area. Strong said the facility plans to provide transportation for patients.

Resident Caroline Wolske asked why company representatives wanted to build the facility in Sagamore instead of a larger city. Strong said a facility in a residential area discourages city distractions that could trigger a patient and prevent them from having successful treatment.

Parkview update

Snell gave an update of the Parkview Senior Living progress at state Route 82 and Carter Road. He said representatives of the project want to divide the land into three parcels. This does not change the original plan to develop all three parcels, and each will comply with the township’s residential zoning code.

Snell said Parkview representatives received bank funds to develop the initial 70 units and will be awarded money to construct units on the other two parcels after the first group of homes is rented.

As a condition of the lot split, Parkview engineers will construct a comprehensive stormwater system, which the Summit County Engineer approved, throughout the entire property. ∞