Not on my street

Grovemont residents' outcry concerning a planned nursing home for veterans seems to be getting results.

The 100-bed facility, to be financed mostly by federal stimulus funds, is slated for construction on state property adjacent to Camp Woodson in Swannanoa; the original plan called for the entrance to be built on Woodland Drive.

For the past several weeks, neighboring residents have been up in arms, saying the proposed entrance would bring too much traffic into their community. Meetings and protests staged by Grovemont Neighbors of the VA Nursing Home have garnered extensive media attention and support from such local leaders as Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt and N.C. House candidates Patsy Keever and Mark Crawford.

Spreading the word: Aiming to spur action that would keep a planned VA nursing-home entrance from going through their neighborhood, Grovemont residents have peppered east Buncombe with signs. Photo by Jake Frankel

And at a June 3 public-information session, officials from the N.C. Department of Administration presented about 100 Grovemont residents with three alternatives designed to address the traffic concerns.

"You've been heard very loud and clear," engineer Bert Neily told the audience, triggering a round of applause. "We're going to try everything we can to make this a successful project for the veterans and the people of Swannanoa."

Two of the alternatives would place the entrance on Lake Eden Drive between Charles D. Owen High School and Old U.S. 70. Both would require improving Clover Way, which cuts through adjacent state property.

The third route would connect with Old U.S. 70 and run along the edge of the state's Swannanoa Valley Youth Development Center.

Although the state officials stressed that these proposals still face funding and engineering hurdles (all three would cost more to build than the Woodland Drive plan), Neily said he thinks they're "doable."

Several Grovemont residents joined Gantt in encouraging the state agency to do whatever is necessary to get an alternative route approved.

"We're going to help you with the Board of Adjustment," Gantt assured the residents, noting that he thinks the state Department of Transportation and Department of Administration are "trying to do the right thing."

Gantt also acknowledged many residents' concerns that they weren't even aware of the project until the controversial plan was already in place. "It's the county's fault more people didn't get notices," he said. "Only the adjoining landowners got notices."

Woodland Drive resident Wendy Outland urged officials to consider her and her neighbors' well-being in evaluating the various plans. "I thank you very much for the proposals you've brought us this evening," she said, adding, "Safety is our main concern — the easiest way is not always the best way."

At the conclusion of the meeting, Senior Deputy Secretary Speros Fleggas promised residents the state agency would hold another public meeting in a couple of weeks to give an update on how the plans are developing.

At press time, no date had been set for that session, but organizer Sophia Papadopoulos says she's encouraged by the progress so far.

"I'm ecstatic that they've done this work. And I think that, as a community, we definitely feel like our voices have been heard," she reports. "We will continue to stay in touch with state officials to let them know that we are anticipating an answer — and to hold them to their promises of coming through for us."

Jake Frankel can be reached at jfrankel@mountainx.com or at 251-1333, ext. 115.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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