“You’ve been heard very loud and clear,” said N.C. Department of Administration engineer Bert Neilly, addressing about 100 Grovemont residents who have voiced concerns in recent weeks about a proposed entrance to a planned VA nursing home in their neighborhood.
Speaking at the June 3 N.C. DOA Public Information Session on the project, Neilly was greeted by cheers as he went on to outline alternative proposals the department is considering that would avoid putting the entrance through Grovemont. “We’re going to try everything we can to make this a successful project for the veterans and the people of Swannanoa,” he continued.
Although the N.C. DOT and DOA officials on hand were careful to point out that any new plans for the entrance could still face funding and engineering hurdles (all of the alternative routes would cost more than the originally proposed entrance on Woodland Drive), Neilly said he thinks the changes are “doable.”
Several Grovemont residents, as well as Buncombe County Board Chair David Gantt, spoke out at the meeting in favor of changing the proposed entrance. “We’re going to help you with the Board of Adjustments,” said Gantt, noting that he thinks the N.C. DOT and DOA are “trying to do the right thing.”
Gantt also acknowledged that it was largely the county’s fault that many Grovemont residents weren’t aware of the project until controversial plans for the entrance were already in place. “It’s the county’s fault more people didn’t get notices,” he said. “Only the adjoining land owners got notices.”
Woodland Drive’s Wendy Outland urged the N.C. DOT and DOA officials to consider the safety of Grovemont residents as they consider the alternative plans. “I thank you very much for the proposals you’ve brought us this evening,” she said. “Safety is our main concern—the easiest way is not always the best way.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, the DOA’s Speros Fleggas promised residents they would hold another public session in a couple weeks to update them on how the plans are developing.
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About 60 residents of the Grovemont neighborhood in east Asheville gathered Thursday night, May 27, at the Bee Tree Fire Station to rally against a proposed entrance to a planned VA nursing home in the area.
Sophia Papadopoulos, an organizer of the newly formed group Grovemont Neighbors of the VA Nursing Home, presented a PowerPoint plan that made the case for relocating the proposed entrance from Woodland Drive to Lake Eden Road. During the presentation, Papadopoulos said locating the entrance at Woodland Drive would bring too much traffic into the community, creating an unsafe situation for residents. She estimated the facility would bring about 5,000 additional vehicles per month onto Woodland Drive, which is narrower and closer to homes than Lake Eden Road.
“It’s our hope and request that the the state of North Carolina keeps our neighborhood safe,” said Papadopoulos, garnering big applause from attendees.
Papadopoulos also encouraged residents to speak their mind at an upcoming June 3 presentation by the Department of Administration on the proposed plan (see the public notice below). The public meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Charles D. Owen Middle School, with an informal meet-and-greet preceding it at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s very important we show up in big numbers to that meeting. … bring your children, bring your families, speak up,” said Papadopoulos. “Even if they start digging that entrance up, we’ve got to keep pushing.”
Photos courtesy of Grovemont Neighbors of the VA Nursing Home.
Here’s the public notice from the DOA:
In an effort to respond to citizen questions and hear their comments, the N.C. Department of Administration will hold a Public Information Session on June 3 at Owen Middle School in Swannanoa related to the construction of a State Veterans’ Nursing Home in Swannanoa.
The public is invited to an informal drop-in in the school lobby from 4:30-6 p.m. to see plans and talk with staff about the project. At 6:30 p.m., an information presentation, followed by a comments and questions period, will be held in the auditorium.
Owen Middle School is located at 730 Old US Highway 70, Swannanoa. Enter at the main entrance.
For information, contact DOA Communications Director Jill Warren Lucas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-807-2496.