Senior living shot down 3-2; lawsuit next?

Threat of a lawsuit, which followed a 3-2 vote by Farragut Board of Mayor and Aldermen against a zoning change that would have allowed construction of a three-story Harmony at Farragut senior living center on 10 acres behind Ingles in Farragut, came from the property owner whose vision to bring Harmony to Town was shot down.

“What this is going to do Mayor (Ron Williams) is we have to have a lawsuit … to resolve it in court,” said owner/developer Doug Horne (also owner of Republic Newspapers, Inc., parent company of farragutpress), just moments after the vote, coming after lengthy discussion highlighting the Thursday evening, March 9, BOMA meeting in an almost full Town Hall boardroom.

Williams, Vice Mayor Louise Povlin and North Ward Alderman Scott Meyer shot down the proposed zoning change, and the development, by voting no, while South Ward Aldermen Drew Burnette and David White voted in favor.

“You all are totally unfair and unethical about this,” Horne said to the three voting no.

The proposal was to go from Office (O-1), General Single-Family Residential (R-2) and Rural Single-Family Residential (R-1) zoning to Community Service (S-1) zoning, which would have allowed construction of the development.

The Board heard from development officials and employees from Horne Properties, LLC., along with 15 citizens, including Horne himself, speaking for and against the development (see related stories beginning on pages 1A and 2A).

This discussion and vote highlighted an evening also filled with spirited comment from Williams, Povlin and White — all defending themselves in the face of comments made by citizens during the development discussion, and later during Citizens Forum (see story in next week’s issue).

Harmony pitch

Speaking on behalf of Harmony first was Joe Conver, senior development manager with Smith/Packett, which has “developed over 150 senior living/long-term care communities over the last 40 years,” he said.

Harmony would have combined “independent living, assisted living and the memory care component; we do have that all (planned) under one roof,” Conver added. “… We would generate roughly 100 jobs.

“… This is a $69 (million) investment.”

Conver gave an example of “three ladies” who he said had their lives greatly improved under the care and support of a Harmony center. “They were eating peanut butter and jelly, cheese and crackers, hard-boiled eggs, and now they’re three ladies who have met their best friends. They go to classes together, they go to church together, they go to swimming classes together. …,” he said.

Other features mentioned included “having our beauty salons in-house,” he said.

As for health-related in-house features, “If a resident has a fall, or in a situation where they need physical therapy, we have the therapy on-site,” Conver said. “A nurse will bring them down.”

Town staff suggested Smith/Packett “go out to the local HOAs and do some studies,” Conver said, bringing the company’s “civil engineer, architect” to an “all day” meeting with HOA officials. “… We did have some positive feedback. … They had a lot of questions.”

Collin Johnson, vice president of the Chattanooga office for RaganSmith (landscape architects), spoke to the Board “about the development plan — specifically the site plan, the zoning. Just generally how we approach this.”

The bottom line, he said, is that Harmony “is intended to be a one-stop shop for the whole continuum of care for seniors.”

Moreover, “From a city planning perspective, it makes all the sense in the world to put a facility like this right next to one similar to it (Villages of Farragut, about 100 yards to the west of the proposed property),” Johnson said.

He also pointed out “a 430-foot gap between the residential neighbors (Baldwin Park to the north) and our property.”

Winn Bishop, senior vice president for Smith/Packett, said he wanted to emphasize “the need for senior care in your community.”

However, Bishop addressed what he said were “very disingenuous” e-mail comments by development opponents about the development being “high density” and simply “apartments.”

Michelle Lauer, Harmony Senior Services director of sales and marketing (Mt. Juliet location), said Harmony would bring a much-needed “option” to seniors. “Without options, many seniors with the desire or need for senior living will have to move out of Farragut,” she said.

Without the supervision and fellowship Harmony could provide, she added, “There are seniors in Farragut right now who are not taking their medications correctly, not getting the proper nutrition and the majority of their socialization is sitting in front of a TV.”

Moreover, Lauer said seniors living alone locally “are falling in their homes — and at times not even telling it,” adding that Harmony partners with emergency response providers.

“… We have nurses and physicians … in regard to these issues.”

In short, “Farragut seniors are one mishap away from needing a senior living community,” she added.

While proponents cited local seniors are on “waiting lists” to get into existing area/Town senior living facilities, opponents disputed this..