A Letter to the Madison City Council
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The following letter was sent to Madison City Council members and city officials in early May.
Dear Members of the City Council,
We, the nine members of the Morgan County Hospital Authority, are reaching out one last time to share our position on the zoning of the former Morgan Memorial Hospital site. We want to be absolutely certain each of you has all of the information necessary to make an informed decision on the zoning request for the property.
While the Authority has only recently spoken publicly about this matter, it is important to understand that we have been working diligently behind the scenes for more than two years. During that time, we have held numerous meetings with city officials – primarily David Nunn, Monica Callahan and Jimmy Carter – in an effort to resolve our long-standing concerns about the property’s zoning. We have included a detailed timeline of those interactions as background.
As you know, zoning has been a significant obstacle in our efforts to find a suitable buyer. As a result, the community has lost opportunities with four potential buyers – companies that could have brought dozens of well-paying jobs and considerable economic impact to Madison.
From our very first outreach in December 2018, we have approached our discussions with the city in good faith and with a strong desire to do the right thing – for both the Hospital Authority and our community. We have shared information proactively and transparently, often going above and beyond to address the concerns brought to our attention.
Unfortunately, we do not believe those efforts have been reciprocated. Assurances have been made only to be reversed without explanation, and we continue to encounter delays in resolving this important matter. We regret that our approach in working directly with these city officials has not only wasted valuable time and resources, but also created the impression the Authority is trying to circumvent city zoning laws. This could not be further from the truth.
In reality, the city’s refusal to engage in a meaningful dialogue has left us with little hope of selling the MMH property at fair market value. Each month, we pay in excess of $10,000 to maintain an aging and underutilized property. This expense is a significant drain on the Hospital Authority and the taxpayers who help fund it.
Unfortunately, we are now in a position where time is of the essence. Potential buyers – including Flashpoint Recovery – want to invest in a shovel-ready site with all zoning permissions completed. That’s why we first approached city managers regarding the property two years – and four potential buyers – ago. Now, after dozens of discussions, the city has reversed course to indicate we will need to seek a zoning action to move forward with the sale of the property. This could take 12 months or more.
Simply put, we cannot afford to stay in limbo any longer. The city has already provided a zoning letter, which interprets the zoning ordinance to allow for continued use of the Morgan Memorial Hospital site by a new hospital company. However, in that letter the city contradicted itself by first saying that use by another hospital is an authorized use, but then said that it must apply for and receive a conditional use permit.
We have requested that the City provide a corrected zoning letter confirming the use of the Morgan Memorial Hospital site by another hospital is an authorized use, which will allow a hospital to operate in this space. We have provided strong legal justification for our position. We urge you to consider the following facts.
- The proposed buyer will provide the same services that sustained our hospital in the past. Inpatient drug rehabilitation was a core service for Morgan Memorial in the 1990s with the majority of its beds used to provide this care to Medicaid patients. More recently, the hospital has continued to care for approximately 450 patients with a drug or alcohol diagnosis a year. We are simply asking the city to honor the intent of the law and allow a rehabilitation hospital, which would provide the same service to an entirely different clientele, to operate in this space. In addition, the proposed buyer provides the same core services as Morgan Medical Center — acute care services.
- This is not your average drug rehabilitation hospital. It is important to look beyond common myths and biases to understand the facts about the proposed development. Flashpoint Recovery will provide an important service that is needed now more than ever. The hospital will serve high net worth individuals who value their privacy and are serious about recovery. Treatment costs are expected to range from $30,000 to $40,000 per patient, per month. All patients receiving treatment would be there voluntarily and the facility will provide security.
- A high-end rehabilitation hospital would create minimal impact for the neighborhood and be far safer than an aging, uninhabited building. Unlike MMH, a rehabilitation hospital will not be serviced by ambulances or operate an ER that draws traffic at all hours of the day and night. Only inpatient care will be provided at the hospital and patients will remain on campus for the duration of their treatment, minimizing traffic and noise. Flashpoint Recovery has committed to investing $3 million to make renovations and additions to the facility. These factors make this use a better – and safer – prospect for neighbors than an aging, seldom-used building. Because of the proximity of the Morgan County drug court program, our proposed buyer expects to fence the site to keep these participants away from its patients.
- The project will create a significant economic impact for Madison. The new rehabilitation hospital is expected to create 60 full-time, high-paying jobs and up to 20 part-time or per diem jobs. Use of the facility by a for-profit health care provider will generate new tax revenues for the county and city, including $50,000 in estimated new annual property taxes. Area businesses and local vendors will also benefit during and after the renovation process.
- Madison will maintain control over how the property is used in the future. As a show of good faith, Flashpoint has agreed to work with the city to craft reasonable but effective requirements for the future sale of the building to ensure continued community friendly use.
To move forward with the sale of the property in a way that benefits our community and protects the interest of those who live nearby, we would like to proceed with your support. Our ask is simple: please honor the letter and intent of the existing zoning laws and issue a letter outlining the current zoning, which will allow another hospital to operate in this space.
While we remain hopeful this issue can be resolved, we have a responsibility to take action that moves the business of the hospital forward in a way that benefits the community. We continue to be willing to meet with any of you should you have questions.