Green light for Hill Country's 'Center of Hope' wellness campus & youth housing in Redding
Despite heated testimony during a nearly two-hour-long public hearing that drew many opponents, the Redding Planning Commission approved a proposal by Hill Country Community Clinic to consolidate its six medical operations around the city into a wellness campus that includes housing for homeless youth.
The commissioners' decision, made Tuesday night, requires the Round Mountain-based medical nonprofit to build a wall or install a fence on the portion of the project closest to the Redding Adventist Academy.
The private K-8 school, with 57 students, abuts a segment of the property that's closest to the student housing portion of Hill Country's development.
Several of the 17 people who spoke against the project during the public hearing were parents. They said they are concerned for their children's safety, given the clinic's plans to house homeless youth and treat patients with mental illnesses.
The measure passed by a 2-1 vote. Leslie Williem and Randy Memeo voted in support of the proposal and Wally St. Clair voted against it, while vice chairman Bert Meyer abstained.
Commission chair Rick Bosetti was absent, as were commissioners Michele Goedert and Frank Coughlin.
"We can't solve all the world's problems by building a fence, but I'm at least trying to give them a little bit more security," said Williem, who had said earlier that she would support the project only if a fence was installed.
The primary care clinic is designed to provide medical, mental health and dental care to people who are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance or are uninsured. The nonprofit group anticipates serving 10,000 people annually at the center.
"We really need more health care in Redding of all kinds," Hill Country CEO Lynn Dorroh said during the meeting.
Melissa Gheen, chair of the board of the Adventist school, said after the meeting that school leaders must decide whether they want to appeal the commission's decision to the City Council. She called Hill Country's location for the wellness campus and youth housing "concerning considering we have a lot of students there who are vulnerable. So, the protection of our students is the most important thing."
Board members of the academy, which is just across the street from the proposed health complex, had voiced concerns at a meeting on Jan. 2 that the facility was likely to attract mentally unstable people, criminals and sex offenders.
After Tuesday's meeting, Dorroh said, "We will happily build a fence or a wall, mostly not because we think it's needed, but because we want to really exhibit that we will be good neighbors."
In its report, the city said the private school's grounds are more than 500 feet from the edge of the proposed center’s property, separated by three acres of commercially designated land. The perimeter of the school is currently surrounded by a chain link fence, officials at the public hearing said.
Planning Commission staff had recommended the Center of Hope project be approved.
In explaining why Hill Country is developing the project, Dorroh said that about 30 percent of patients treated at its Round Mountain headquarters were from Redding in 2009. "Now, 50 percent of the patients that we see in Round Mountain come from Redding. That's just an indication of the unmet medical need that there is here," she said.
The commission approved Hill Country's proposal to build a 34,554-square-foot primary care clinic and 16 dorm-style apartments for low-income young adults, aged 18 to 24, who don't have a permanent place to live and are finishing high school or are enrolled at Shasta College. Hill Country is piloting a similar program in Round Mountain. Those young people typically have come out of the foster care system or were homeless.
According to the commission's report, Hill Country said its typical patient was not in need of urgent mental health care. The center will be equipped with security cameras, security personnel and an on-site manager for the youth housing, the report said.
In addition to integrated medical, dental and behavioral health services, the proposed center will provide extra case management and clinical support to those with complex health and social needs, including substance abuse disorder.
Construction on the $22 million project at 1201 Industrial St. is slated to start this summer, with the primary health care campus expected to be completed in 2020.
The proposed complex is bordered on the north by commercial and industrial uses and to the south by the Lowe’s home improvement store and Safeway shopping center.
Redding Adventist Academy and vacant land sit to the east. The U.S. Post Office and other commercial uses sit to the west, along Churn Creek Road and Industrial Street.
Dorroh said the new complex will bring about 65 new jobs for medical professionals and others, bringing Hill Country's employee count at its operations in Redding and surrounding Shasta County area to 100.
The commission's decision could be appealed to the council within 10 days, said City Attorney Barry DeWalt after the meeting.