County planning commission delays decision on psychiatric hospital
Issue will go back to commissioners in January
–After hours of discussion Thursday, the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission made no decision on the proposed mental health hospital for Templeton on Las Tablas Road near Twin Cities Community Hospital. Another hearing is set for Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016.
The hearing was to consider a request by Dr. Harvey Billig for a for a tentative parcel map and conditional use permit to:
- Subdivide an existing 4.9-acre parcel into two parcels of 1.46 acres and 3.44 acres
- Construct a 36,503-square-feet assisted living facility with 60 beds on the 1.46 acres parcel and a 70,419-square-food behavioral health hospital of 91 beds on the 3.44 acre parcel
- A modification to the height standards for the proposed hospital to allow a height of 44 feet from average natural grade instead of 35 feet as provided by ordinance
County staff recommended approval of the project. Several community meetings and forums have been held by people both for and against the proposed hospital. Sixty people submitted requests to speak during public comment, which lead the commission to continue the hearing to a future meeting to allow ample time to receive all comments.
The psychiatric facility is proposed to be built on vacant property on Las Tablas Road across from Twin Cities Community Hospital. The Templeton Area Advisory Group voted 7-0 to reject the proposed mental health center in November 2014.
“There are some legal issues your commission will need to have in mind. … Because it is a mental health facility, a mental health hospital, it will be treating people who are considered disabled under both state and federal law,” County Counsel Whitney McDonald said. “As a result, your commission cannot consider the fact that those who will be using the facility are disabled in any manner in your deliberations. That means you can’t consider the fact that there are people who have mental illnesses that will be going into or out of the facility, in either considering the project or in ultimately deciding to approve or deny it. The best advice I can give you is you need to treat it like it’s any medical hospital.”
Not abiding by those guidelines, McDonald said, is it opens up the county to fines and lawsuits.
The property is owned by Harvey and Melanie Billig of Carmel, who lived in the county from 1973 to 2000. The hospital will be operated by Vizion Health, LLC.
For safety, the patients will be locked in “care pods,” which are grouped by age: 6 to 12 years old, 13 to 18, 18 to 65 and 65 and older. All patients’ stays are voluntary and will last 8 to 10 days. The hospital will not treat substance abuse, but will provide therapy and medication for depression, anxiety disorder, suicidal tendencies, schizophrenia, social phobias, eating disorders, post-traumatic street disorder in veterans and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.