By Laura Swift
The Murphy Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 23 denied a request from Forestar Real Estate Group for approval of a Specific Use Permit and Concept Plan for a hospital facility located at the northeast corner of FM 544 and Heritage Parkway.
The Concept Plan includes a 20,000 square-foot facility containing an Emerus emergency room, professional offices and a helistop. The site is bordered by the Windy Hill Farm neighborhood, Heritage Montessori Academy, Heritage Parkway and FM 544.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, multiple residents voiced concerns about the proposed facility and helistop creating safety hazards and excess noise and traffic.
Dudley Carpenter, representative for Emerus, said the company has two similar ER facilities in Aubrey and McKinney. “We feel like Murphy demographics will support this facility,” Carpenter said.
The first floor of the proposed facility is a state-licensed emergency room that has eight beds. The second level is designed for professional office use. “We’re not looking to have 400 beds. This facility is small and unique and the wait time is a lot shorter. People think this facility is a lot bigger than it really is,” Carpenter said.
“The emergency room has the capacity to treat anything that comes in. If a patient needs more than 36 hours of treatment or needs to go to a more specialized facility, we’ll stabilize them here and make sure they’re transported,” he said.
Commissioner Stephanie Merrifield asked if Murphy EMS would transport to the Emerus facility.
“No, this facility is designed for people to come in their car,” Carpenter said. “At the Aubrey and McKinney facilities they [residents] drive there. We don’t have screaming ambulances coming in. On a day-to-day basis we don’t have a lot of traffic.”
Commissioner Steve Levy said he has a lot of issues with the proposed location. “There are a lot of variances in the SUP to make this facility fit. I’m struggling with that,” Levy said. “This would be the largest office-type building in Murphy.”
The Board asked why the site plans contained a helistop.
“The helistop is there because of the level of comfort it provides the staff, knowing that they’ve got access to get a patient to a trauma center immediately,” Carpenter said. “From Jan. 1, 2011, to today, we’ve flown 16 people in Aubrey, which we think the Murphy center will be comparable to.”
Commissioner Jane Jan asked if there was another site in the city that Emerus would consider building the facility.
“We looked at several locations in Murphy and identified this as the ideal location,” Carpenter said.
Multiple residents addressed the Board in opposition of the proposed facility during the public comment period.
“This is the entrance to our community,” said Windy Hill Farm resident Amy Nutz. “We’re concerned with safety; it’s close to the Montessori. We already have the George Bush [ER] facility and the emergency center in Murphy Marketplace. Plus, if the office spaces are leased, that will add more traffic and it’s a busy intersection already. Noise is a major concern. It’s not what the area was intended for.”
Debra Chiarello said she is “vehemently opposed” to the building. “I’m a local real estate agent and this development is a great concern to me,” Chiarello said. “This and Wal-Mart will increase traffic. I don’t see how this development will appeal to anyone who want to buy a home in Windy Hill Farm. It will affect property value.”
“I’ve lived next to a hospital before,” said Brian Firmin. “The noise will impact the residents.”
After hearing residents’ concerns about the helistop, Carpenter said he would pull the helistop from site’s Concept Plan.
After taking into consideration the site plan without a helistop, the P&Z Commission denied Emerus’ application because the proximity of the facility to Windy Hill Farm was not suitable.