NOCH lawsuit targets Health Pointe

Alex Doty • Dec 28, 2016 at 8:00 AM

North Ottawa Community Hospital has filed a lawsuit in Ottawa County Circuit Court seeking to order Grand Haven Township to withdraw the planned unit development approval for the Health Pointe project, and is asking for monetary damages in excess of $25,000.

According to a statement released by NOCH officials, the decision to proceed with the zoning violation civil suit occurred at the Grand Haven hospital’s Board of Trustees’ meeting earlier this month.

The suit challenges the township’s approval of the Health Pointe project in the township’s Commercial PUD district.

“The decision considered the totality of troublesome activity that’s occurred during the past year as Health Pointe (a joint venture between Spectrum Health and Holland Hospital) progressed through its zoning process, which has resulted in an unnecessary and costly division of our community,” NOCH officials said in a statement.

“First and foremost, the township’s Zoning Ordinance is clear, but was ignored by a board that overstepped its bounds,” NOCH officials continued. “Health Pointe is a medical facility and therefore is not a permitted use in the Commercial PUD district. This valuable land was set aside for tax-paying, revenue-generating retail businesses — not for tax-exempt ‘doctor’s offices’ or ‘medical clinics.’”

NOCH officials also said the township “crossed the line” when it amended the Commercial PUD zoning ordinance to allow for Health Pointe’s medical designation and height specifications, only to have township voters “soundly reject” the amendment in a Nov. 8 ballot referendum. Also, they said the township didn’t properly analyze the long-term negative tax revenue impact of this project nor citizens’ access to local hospital-based health care, “despite pleas from (the North Ottawa Community Health System), neighboring municipalities and its own residents.”

“Finally, we’re very concerned about the lack of transparency, stewardship and respect Spectrum Health has shown our community,” NOCH officials said. “It spent (at least) $130,000 health care dollars to fund a questionable ‘citizen’s group’ in an effort to influence the local rezoning vote. These mounting concerns have been felt and voiced communitywide. Thousands of township taxpayers voted to unseat two Township Board members in recent primary elections, and an even greater number turned out this past November to overturn the zoning amendment in the general election.

“Our community deserves better,” NOCH officials continued in the statement. “It deserves a fair process. It deserves transparency. And it deserves stewardship. Because NOCHS is a taxpaying organization within Grand Haven Township, its board has decided to exercise its right on behalf of our greater community to file this lawsuit in order to bring these issues to light, and require proper enforcement of the zoning ordinance,” NOCHS officials said.

In March, the Township Board gave the OK to build the 120,000-square-foot Health Pointe medical building, which is currently under construction off 172nd Avenue, between Robbins Road and Comstock Street. It is expected to include primary care, urgent care, radiology, laboratory, specialty physicians, CT, MRI and ambulatory surgical services.

Township officials said they will contact the township’s insurance carrier for a determination of coverage and will coordinate legal actions with the other defendants. Legal staff will schedule a time to discuss the lawsuit with the full Township Board after the New Year.

Health Pointe leadership made this statement: "Health Pointe is aware of the lawsuit filed by North Ottawa Community Hospital. We have great respect for the legal process and look forward to resolution of this pending litigation. We strongly believe in our mission and will continue our construction project. Our commitment remains focused on the needs of our current and future patients in northern Ottawa County.”

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