Update: County supervisors approve plans for Templeton psychiatric hospital
By Heather Young
Update posted March 16:
Supervisors unanimously approve project
–The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to build a 91-bed psychiatric hospital in Templeton, after an appeal of the county planning commission’s Jan. 14 approval.
Templeton resident Murray Powell made the appeal to the board because of sizing concerns. Powell said that the facility was too large for the community, according to reports.
During a staff report, Deputy County Counsel Whitney McDonald, advised the board that they were prohibited by law from considering a psychiatric hospital any differently than they would any other health care facility. Supervisors reportedly disagreed with Powell’s sizing concerns, and said that the project would be good for Templeton and the county.
Original story posted Jan. 15:
County planning commission approves plans for Templeton psychiatric hospital
Decision can be appealed to board of supervisors
–The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission approved, 7-0, the request from Dr. Harvey Billig for a tentative parcel map and conditional use permit for a psychiatric hospital in Templeton across the street from Twin Cities Community Hospital at its meeting on Jan. 14. The approval came following a 7-0 recommendation for denial from the Templeton Area Advisory Group in November 2014. County staff, however, recommended approval of the project.
Tuesday’s meeting was a five-hour continuation of the same item it last heard in December. It was continued in order to hear all public comment before making a decision. After the item was introduced, public comment continued where it left off, lasting for more than two hours.
The approval included:
- Subdividing an existing 4.9-acre parcel into two parcels of 1.46 acres and 3.44 acres
- Constructing 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
- Modifying 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
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. The proposed hospital is planned to have 91 bed in the mental health center and 60 beds in a separate live-in memory care facility.
Among various public comments for and against the project, Fred Russell, a member of the Concerned Citizens Preventing Unintended Consequences, gave a number of reasons why the project isn’t right for the proposed location. Those included inadequate parking for the size, the project being too big for the land, the height being too tall and more.
“This will not be a secure facility. People can come and go as they like,” Russell said. “More than 50-percent of the San luis Obispo County residents who need this kind of facility will not be eligible.”
He ended his time by saying that a full environmental impact report is what is needed to really assess the impact the proposed hospital will have on the community. He said that the negative declaration is not adequate.
Proponents of the project said that Templeton is the right place because there is nowhere local for those suffering with mental illness. According to the Billigs, 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.
After public comment, but before it was opened up to decision by the commission, county staff addressed concerns raised by the public.
County Counsel Whitney McDonald cautioned the commission that in order to comply with state and federal laws, it cannot consider who will be using the facility.
“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,” McDonald said, adding that the county could be opened up to fines and lawsuits by not abiding by those guidelines.
“There is a critical need for this kind of facility,” Commissioner Ken Topping said, adding that he saw more pluses than minuses, which led to his support of the project.