By Chea Waters Evans, News editor
The Charlotte Family Health Center (CFHC) on Ferry Road is temporarily moving to Shelburne at the end of the month, with hope to come back for good next year. The center’s old location is for sale, and the doctors who own the practice are in the application process to build a new facility in the center of town. Septic, water, wetland and other issues have slowed the process and sometimes threaten to halt it, but on Sept. 17 the Planning Commission approved the site plan review sketch and boundary adjustment, which allows the CFHC to move ahead.
Dr. Andrea Regan, a physician with the practice who lives in Charlotte, said during the meeting that when speaking of the building, the neighbors nearby, and the traffic in the center of town, she has been thinking of the project in terms of what it would be like if the center were being built next door to her. Dr. Alex Graham, who also attended the meeting, said they “thought and talked a lot about the impact” on area residents.
The building, which would be on the south side of Ferry Road between Greenbush Road and Route 7, would be located on a property that has been vacant for many years, mostly due to building challenges because of wetlands located in the back of the property. Dr. Paul Reiss, who is spearheading the project on behalf of the CFHC, described the building design (the fifth version of a sketch plan that was submitted to the PC, see photo) during the meeting. He pointed to “significant wetland restraints,” but said the latest version of the building design and location allows the practice to include green space on both sides of the building, no street parking, adequate parking in back, and a portico on the west side of the building to protect vulnerable patients during drop-off. Exam rooms will have doors leading directly to them from the outside, a recent necessity in a COVID world. Reiss and Regan also said there will be a fence protecting the neighbors from unsightly parking lot and dumpster views, and all efforts will be made to preserve as much vegetation on the property as possible.
The one-story building plan received approval so far from Laurie Thomas who spoke on behalf of the Trails Committee after receiving reassurance from the doctors that they would honor the current landowner’s commitment to allow the Town Link Trail to cross the property. Neighbor René Kaczka-Vallière attended the meeting and said he “would like to see some movement in improving that space” and was glad to be reassured that a willow tree in the wetlands would remain in place.
Regan said, “We are currently submitting the redesign to Wetlands and waiting for the wastewater committee recommendations to go to the Selectboard so we can apply for septic.” After months of discussion last year, the Selectboard approved possible hookup for local businesses to town septic should no other options be available; the CFHC will be the first to apply for the arrangement, which would allow them to pay the town directly for whatever septic they use.
Once the final application to the PC is approved, there will be a joint hearing with the Zoning Board of Adjustment for boundary adjustment site plan review and conditional use. As the process moves along, the CFHC will be located in a temporary rented space at Shelburne Green on Route 7 in Shelburne.