By John Quinney, Publisher and President
At The Charlotte News, we believe that the most important news stories leave a lasting impact and can also elevate local issues to a regional platform.
We’re pulling back the curtain on one such piece, “Charlotte Health Center’s long road to nowhere,” reported by our editor, Mara Brooks, on September 23. This story, and those The News reported earlier, gave our readers a thorough understanding of the challenges faced by a development project that had support from many Charlotters.
Here’s the background.
For many years, the Charlotte Family Health Center (CFHC) operated out of a building on Ferry Road, just outside the west village. In fall 2020, CFHC decided to move to Shelburne and the Ferry Road building went up for sale. At the time, The News reported that the doctors who owned the practice planned to build a new facility in Charlotte and hoped to return to town in 2021. The Charlotte News published several stories as the health center project made its way through the town’s permitting and approval process.
Mara’s health center story contained several surprises for me.
First, I was shocked to learn how expensive the permitting and approval process had been for the Evergreen Family Health partners – they invested almost $200,000 before suspending their plans. Second, I was surprised to learn that that a small group of neighbors were unable to resolve their differences with Evergreen. Finally, as stated by Evergreen partner Dr. Paul Reiss, I learned that the economics no longer made sense because healthcare reforms had failed to provide support for primary care services.
We should note that the Selectboard’s list of suggestions for using American Rescue Plan Act funds includes, “Purchase property adjacent to the property being considered by Charlotte Family Health Center, to provide parking for the health center and for other town center activities.”
This story resonated with our readers because many Charlotters feel that the town needs a health center, and that the neglected site in the center of the west village was a perfect location for the project. For some, the outcome reinforced the sense that Charlotte is a “town divided.” Others still hope there’s a way to bring the health center back to Charlotte.
There had been no news on the health center since we published this story 10 weeks ago. Then during Monday night’s special selectboard meeting, we heard that Evergreen Family Health have decided to withdraw from the legal process triggered by two appeals that were filed by neighbors of the project. The consequences of this decision are unknown at this time. Selectboard member Frank Tenney is to meet with the town attorney to discuss the implications for the town and the project.
Reporters like Mara work hard on stories like these in order to present the complete picture for our readers. It’s the kind of in-depth reporting that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else—the kind that takes time and money to produce.
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Publisher and President
The Charlotte News