Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Cabot allows assisted-living facility

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council on Monday night approved a special-use permit that will allow an assisted-living facility to be built in a residential neighborhood.

The vote was unanimous despite objections from residents of the adjoining Glenwood Estates on East Mt. Springs Road who said they feared their property values would decline. And they were concerned about increased traffic, especially ambulances.

They also feared garbage containing adult diapers and medical wastes might be scattered by dogs since the city doesn’t enforce an ordinance requiring fences around dumpsters.

Children from nearby Northside Elementary School could be harmed by the traffic and medical wastes, they said.

“This is a business plain and simple,” Jeanie Roberts told the council. “Our only entrance and exit is their only entrance and exit.”

Karen Marlott said she was concerned that if the venture failed, the five large buildings that would be left behind would be good for nothing but low-rent housing for derelicts.

“What else they could be used for?” Marlott asked.

“Even though this is a good project and the city could use it, the location is just wrong,” Tracy Oakley said, and asked the council to hold off voting so more residents could get involved.

Ashley Blankenship and her mother, Liz Blankenship, will build and operate the facility, told the council that the neighbors’ fears were unfounded.

No medical wastes will be placed in the dumpsters, she said. And the dumpsters will be fenced because they would be unattractive if they were not.

She said the five large units they intend to build on 8.84 acres will look like houses, not an institution. And they will be well maintained because they will be home to the residents who will likely live out their lives there.

The Blankenships also have assisted-living facilities in Heber Springs and Conway.
No member of the council voiced any concerns about the project.

Alderman Patrick Hutton took the position that the property is more valuable for commercial use instead of residential and that the owner should be able to sell it for as much as possible.

Alderman Ed Long said construction of the facility would be good for the area because the city would require street improvements.

Alderman Jon Moore pointed out that traffic would likely be worse in the area if more houses were built instead of the assisted-living facility.

Alderman Ann Gilliam said the facility would not be unattractive. In fact, the houses would be pretty, she said.

But Alderman Rick Prentice who is becoming known for being very outspoken had the most pointed comments.

“Where do you want to put these people?” Prentice asked Glenwood Estate residents. “Do you want to put them in a slum?”

“These people have the right to live somewhere,” he said. “You haven’t convinced me it shouldn’t be over there.”