Council approves skilled nursing project, requires curb repairs

The new Village Green housing unit would be located on the

Gilroy’s City Council unanimously approved a zoning change and
architectural plan to allow a skilled nursing center and ambulatory
surgery center at the Village Green senior living center Monday,
but only under the condition that developer DMA Gilroy Partners fix
curbs and driveways at its current facility.
Gilroy’s City Council unanimously approved a zoning change and architectural plan to allow a skilled nursing center and ambulatory surgery center at the Village Green senior living center Monday, but only under the condition that developer DMA Gilroy Partners fix curbs and driveways at its current facility.

“I support this project, but overall, I won’t support this project without this being included,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said of the language about curb and driveway repairs. “At least make them fix this.”

The proposed two-story, 54,925-square-foot skilled nursing facility would include 120 beds and would take in both long-term and short-term patients. The 5,300-square-foot ambulatory surgery center would offer relatively minor outpatient procedures. Both buildings would stand near the southwest corner of Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hecker Pass Road.

Prior to the council’s vote, Pinheiro showed slides of homes within the Village Green senior living development in which curbs immediately dropped off and in which many residents placed boards at an angle in front of their driveways to help access them. He noted that the skilled nursing facility and ambulatory surgery center stood within the same public utility district as the rest of Village Green, which currently includes houses, apartments and an assisted-living complex for seniors. As a result, there was an opportunity to fix past problems, he stressed.

On the other hand, Councilman Peter Arellano, who voted in favor of the Village Green complex nearly 10 years ago, argued that he felt that the developer was being unfairly targeted.

“We’re doing a hostage situation now: you do this or you won’t get your project,” Arellano said. “I don’t like the tone we’ve taken.”

Arellano was echoing language previously used by Councilman Perry Woodward, who initially said he did not want to hold the project “hostage” by requiring the curbs and driveway to be fixed. However, even then Woodward stressed the that the developer needed to fix past problems.

Arellano said he did not mind telling the developer to fix the curbs and driveways, but he did not want to place blame on the developer, and he did not want to make curb and driveway repairs a condition for project approval.

“We (in the city) had engineers. People looked at this,” Arellano said. “They approved these streets and approved these buildings and it was built.”

However, Pinheiro said he has talked to the developer about the problem on several occasions since then, and nothing ever gets changed.

While a couple of council members initially said they did not want to make the curb repairs a condition of approval, Councilman Dion Bracco said such language needed to be included.

“(The developer) has demonstrated here that they don’t do what they say,” he said.

Miguel Vasquez, a spokesman for DMA Gilroy Partners, said the developer had tried working with residents, offering to pay half of what it would cost to repair the curbs and driveways if the homeowners association would pay the other half. The developer had not paid for all the repairs in the past for economic reasons, he said. He also stressed earlier in the meeting that the new project was a $12 million investment that could result in 50 to 60 full-time positions.

Even as the council often engaged in heated deliberations, several local residents spoke passionately in support of the project during the meeting.

Planning Commissioner Joan Spencer, who said she was speaking as a private resident, showed a Web site that posted a long list of alleged deficiencies at Gilroy’s current skilled-nursing facility, Gilroy Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. The site OurParents.com gave that facility a one-star rating out of five stars. While many of those problems had been corrected, she said her father died there as a result of what she believes to be a lack of quality care.

“I would love to see a little competition in town,” she said.

Other residents also noted the lack of skilled-nursing alternatives in town and the need for more options in light of the city’s growth.

Liz Strotman, area marketing director for Gilroy Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, said by phone this week that staff welcomed a new skilled-nursing center in town.

“We are looking forward to partnering with Village Green Skilled Nursing to better meet the needs of our growing community,” she said.

She said the star-quality rating system can be inconsistent with the reality of some nursing homes, noting that Health Care Consumer Information System gave the facility two stars.

“There is no substitute for taking a tour of a building and visiting with its residents,” she said.

One thing everyone at Monday’s meeting seemed to agree upon was that the area surrounding Village Green had changed substantially within the past decade. The current estate residential zoning for the 3.8-acre parcel that would house the proposed project was no longer appropriate, council members and the developer agreed.

The skilled-nursing project itself had changed over the years as well. Although several members of Village Green’s homeowners association initially opposed the skilled-nursing facility and ambulatory surgery center because patients and visitors were slated to use Village Green’s roads to access the project, homeowners association president Terri Aulman said security and traffic concerns had been sufficiently addressed after the entrance and exit to the project was moved to Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hecker Pass Road.

Another Village Green resident, Jack Daley, said during the meeting that he thought the project was a good fit for the area. At the same time, he said afterward that he would love it if the council were able to get curb and driveway repairs implemented, too. While Daley said he loves living at Village Green, he has been less than impressed with aspects of its design.

“It was pretty poorly planned, I think,” he said.

Arellano said after the meeting that he opposed the curb and driveway requirements, but he did not want to vote against the project as a result of the addition. He took issue with some of the accusations made against both Village Green and Gilroy Healthcare and Rehabilitation.

“I thought it just got too personal up there,” he said.

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