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.

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.

Sincerely,

Morgan County Hospital Authority