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Grosse Pointe City

November 8, 2012

Residents worried sick about possible Beaumont expansion

Dozens opposed to creation of health care district at City master plan hearing

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE CITY — Residents living near Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe appear to be largely unhappy with possible expansion of the hospital and its parking areas.

Many of the speakers who packed Grosse Pointe Unitarian Church Oct. 29 for a public hearing on the City’s proposed new master plan expressed concerns about the creation of a hospital district in and around Beaumont. Although the hospital hasn’t presented the City with a formal plan yet — which would require its own series of public hearings and approvals — creation of the hospital district is the first step in this process.

Mary Catherine Ashley of Cranford Lane presented officials with a letter signed by roughly 60 neighbors who live near the hospital and are opposed to its potential expansion. Rats, trash, construction vehicles, panhandlers and loss of safety for pedestrians and cyclists were among the issues she said they already face or would face if this comes to pass.

“We oppose the creation of the health care district, as its effect on the character and charm of the surrounding streets has been and will continue to be detrimental,” she said.

Ashley also accused City officials of a “lack of transparency” with regard to talks with hospital leaders, which she said has led to “rampant speculation and rumors.”

“At a time when the city budget required a reduction of municipal services and there is talk to combine (public) safety officer services with Grosse Pointe Park, how does the city plan to ‘extend its arm’ to cover the added safety issues created by the complexities of a health care district?” she asked.

Frank Rush, a resident in the 1000 block of Cadieux and a longtime Beaumont employee, said it’s not uncommon for him to find liquor bottles, KFC buckets and other trash from hospital patients and visitors on his lawn. In the morning, he said it’s “impossible to cross the street” at Cadieux and Maumee because hospital employees have only a 12-minute to window to punch in or they’ll be penalized, leading to “car after car” at rush hour. He also said he was “dumping” his house because of hospital-related issues.

“The noise is awful in the middle of the night. … I think the Beaumont expansion is not a good thing,” Rush told the council. “I’m leaving the community, and Beaumont is one of the reasons.”

Joseph Kanan, a resident of Notre Dame, also voiced concerns about traffic, especially at his street and Maumee.

“There’s a major accident waiting to happen,” Kanan said, warning City officials they could be facing a lawsuit if that occurs.

Tim Proffitt has lived on both the Grosse Pointe Park and Grosse Pointe City sides of Cadieux for roughly the last 20 years, and like Rush, he told City officials he’s found more than his share of trash in his yard — including cigarette butts, medical waste and surgical scissors.

“This is a bad idea. I hope you don’t let (Beaumont) do it,” Proffitt said of possible expansion.

When he asked the council, “Please don’t mess with our residential neighborhood,” he was greeted by a round of applause from attendees — a reaction Mayor Dale Scrace addressed.

“Please do not react positively or negatively. … This is not a beauty contest,” the mayor told the audience.

Beaumont has purchased a number of adjacent homes on one side of Notre Dame, and now residents on the other side of that quiet residential street are worried about what hospital plans could mean for their properties.

“My selfish question is, what the hell is (hospital rezoning) going to do to property values on the other side of Notre Dame?” asked one such resident, Pat Blake.

Cranford Lane resident Duane Ashley said he’s been approached in his neighborhood by panhandlers, and had strangers knock on his door late at night because of his proximity to the hospital.

Another Cranford Lane resident, Tom Chaplow, said Beaumont employees regularly park on his street, which is now used as a cut-though for buses and other vehicles coming to and from the hospital.

Lifelong resident David Keys, who lives on St. Clair, called possible hospital expansion “a terrible idea.”

“Bon Secours (now Beaumont) is only here for the time because it’s profitable,” he said.

A loss of additional property tax revenue from former homes being rezoned for hospital use was another issue residents raised.

City Manager Peter Dame said Beaumont currently pays the City about $60,000 annually in lieu of property taxes, to cover the cost of City services needed by the hospital. He said that agreement and amount were settled on before he became city manager, when some homes on Cadieux were torn down for hospital use, and he suggested having the agreement updated annually to address the loss of property tax revenue.

City Council member Christopher Walsh said they want to make sure the City receives its “fair share” of revenue from the hospital, but also noted that Beaumont took over ambulance service in the City for free when longtime provider Grosse Pointe Park proposed charging them for the first time several years ago.

“It’s our goal in this process … to try and do what we feel is best for the community, the whole community,” Walsh said.

A few speakers did voice support for Beaumont, including Gene Agnone.

“My concern is the health care of the community and how it’s going to be provided. … We’re an aging population,” he said. “Who will take care of our emergencies?”

A woman who lives on St. Clair argued that the hospital is a good source of jobs for local residents and could help retain young people in the Pointes at a time when many are moving elsewhere for employment.

Dr. Luke A. Elliott, medical staff president of Beaumont Hospital, Grosse Pointe, said he appreciated people’s worries about safety and property values, and said the hospital was mindful of those issues. He said proposed expansion of a corner in front of the building wouldn’t even be visible from the sides of the road.

“If the hospital zoning is not done, the hospital will suffer. … All of these hospitals are suffering in the current environment of health care reform,” Elliott said.

Dr. Donna Hoban, the hospital’s chief medical officer and a resident of Grosse Pointe City and Farms for the past 40 years, said Beaumont has been a major supporter of community events and programs, including those for seniors, donating some $500,000 to such initiatives over the last five years. She said about 48 percent of the hospital’s staff lives in the Pointes. Hoban said proposed hospital modifications would create additional in-demand private patient rooms, among other improvements.

“In order to thrive, we need to provide what’s best for patient services,” Hoban said.

Former City Council member Joseph Jennings, who lives on Village Lane, called Beaumont “a great neighbor.” A fellow former council member, Beaumont Foundation Director G. John Stevens, said he felt the hospital’s requests “are very modest.”

“I believe whatever happens … it can only add to the value of the homes,” Stevens said.

Officials stressed that specifics about Beaumont’s plans — including setbacks, heights and landscaping — would have to be addressed and approved by the council, and that approval of the revised master plan wouldn’t give Beaumont the green light for any such changes.

“The master plan talks in generalities,” said City Planner John Jackson of McKenna Associates. “The next step in the process is to talk in specifics.”

Not all of the residents had concerns about the hospital district. For Dris Raptoulis, who lives on Lorraine, close to Mack, proposed Mack rezoning to broaden uses along that heavily traveled thoroughfare is an issue. He said his daughter was almost run over a couple of weeks ago.

“We need to have a better plan on traffic and parking for Mack,” Raptoulis said.

Scrace said a revised master plan was one of council’s goals for 2012. He estimated attendance for the public hearing — which spilled out into the hallway — at 130-140 people.

Although the council couldn’t vote at the hearing, they informally agreed to ask City administrators to proceed with finalizing the master plan essentially as-is. The council is expected to vote to approve the plan at its next regular meeting, slated at press time to begin at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 in City Council chambers. For an agenda or more information, visit www.grossepointecity.org.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.