Township approves medical project with 6-1 vote

Alex Doty • Mar 29, 2016 at 8:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — A controversial new medical development was approved by the Grand Haven Township Board on Monday night, clearing a hurdle for the Health Pointe development to get started.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Dr. David Ottenbaker of Spectrum Health Medical Group. “Patients will come to love this.”

The decision, which was decided by a 6-1 vote, helps Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital in their quest to construct a 120,000-square-foot medical building that is said to include primary care, urgent care, radiology, laboratory, specialty physicians, CT, MRI and ambulatory surgical services. It will be built near the Meijer store.

Ottenbaker said the new facility will service the 20,000-plus patients that Spectrum Health providers see in the Grand Haven area, and will provide them with services that they may otherwise have to leave the area to obtain.

“If you look at how many people are leaving the community for health care, they’re (saying there’s a need) with their feet,” Ottenbaker said.

Health Pointe officials don’t have a timetable for what happens next, Ottenbaker said, and noted that they are taking the process “one day at a time.”

Monday’s approval comes two weeks after the Township Board voted to table discussions on the development in order for township staff to work out additional project details with the developers. These details included negotiating a potential payment in lieu of taxes (P.I.L.O.T.) agreement and working out additional architectural details on the building.

The Health Pointe Board and Township Board both approved the P.I.L.O.T. agreement, which would only become effective if Health Pointe seeks and receives a property tax exemption.

A payment in lieu of taxes will be provided to the township that will ensure an amount substantially equal to the township’s millage rate (about 4.32 mills) on a $10 million taxable value. The $43,200 annual payment would be adjusted annually for inflation.

Health Pointe has had much opposition in recent months, ranging from community members, local municipalities and local health care providers. Opponents say the project is a duplication of services, will negatively impact the North Ottawa Community Health System, and become a burden on local infrastructure.

Township Treasurer Bill Kieft was the only board member to vote against the planned unit development amendment. Kieft said he voted against the approval because he didn’t like the process that was followed, as it was approved under the township’s current Zoning Ordinance and not the amendments that were made at a previous meeting.

Kieft noted that amendments made to the Zoning Ordinance should have been approved first, then the original Health Pointe proposal should have been denied, and then developers should have submitted a new application that would be approved based on the new zoning amendments.

“I don’t think what we did was right,” he said. “It looks like we were catering to the developer.”

North Ottawa Community Health System representatives have been consistent in their opposition of the project.

“We represent the community, so on behalf of the community, we’re all disappointed that the township trustees did not vote in favor of healthy competition,” NOCHS spokeswoman Jen VanSkiver said following the Township Board’s decision Monday night. “Instead, what they voted to bring into this community is a Taj Mahal of duplication.”

What the community needs, according to VanSkiver, is greater access to primary care doctors.

“It does not need a $55 million capital cost that gets passed on to patients,” she said.

In spite of the Township Board’s decision, NOCHS plans to continue its role of serving the community, VanSkiver said.

“We’re going to collaborate with partners who have an interest in listening to the community and serving it,” she said.

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