Residents of the Donald Ross Drive area of Pinehurst may run into obstacles in their effort to halt plans for a family care home for senior citizens in their neighborhood.
Village and Moore County officials say they cannot intervene to stop it as long as the owner meets all of the state licensing requirements. The only option for opponents would be seeking a change in state law mandating that these type of homes be permitted in all residential zoning districts as long as they are not within a half-mile of another family care home.
The home planned by Belleville of Pinehurst Assisted Living at 685 Donald Ross Drive meets that criteria. Owner Marla Benton, who will also be the administrator, said she is working to meet the state licensing requirements and hopes to accept her first resident in late fall or early winter.
These family care homes, which have live-in caregivers 24 hours a day, can have a maximum of six residents, though Benton said it would not be that many initially.
But residents of the Donald Ross Drive area are not conceding the issue yet. They argue that the home represents a business and that it could lower the value of their properties.
About 147 residents of the neighborhood have signed a petition opposing the family care home.
“It is a residential neighborhood in every sense of the word,” the petition says, noting that there are 145 homes and 10-12 lots awaiting construction. “ No businesses operate in its boundaries. However, a recent sale and an application for the operation of a family care home at 685 Donald Ross Drive threaten that designation.”
The residents oppose the issuance of a state license, which would come from the N.C. Division of Health Services Regulations.
The petition says the proposed home does not seem to be necessary “in a village the likes of Pinehurst with its ample senior care facilities and certainly not in the midst of 145 residential homes.”
Last month, the Donald Ross Area Association board decided not to take a position on the matter because it is mostly a social organization.
Howard Menke, who lives next to the proposed family care home, and several other residents formed a group called Concerned Citizens of the Donald Ross Area Association. They outlined their concerns in an email to members of the association earlier this month asking them to sign the petition.
“Many, if not most of our fellow residents, we believe, oppose this use as being inconsistent with the nature of our residential area,” it said. “Our association board has declined to become directly involved, it being our understanding that it views our association as a social institution. However, many of us are concerned about the impact of housing values and the use being inconsistent with the residential nature of our area.”
Menke said they formed the group to express opposition to the village and state licensing board.
“It is our view that the more support we have the greater our impact will be,” the email said.
Residents will not get any help from the village.
An email from the village to members of the association said these type homes “must be deemed a residential use of the property for zoning purposes and shall be permissible in all residential districts. … In order to be compliant with state law, our development ordinance echoes the state requirements and outlines the process to get permitted.”
The village issued a zoning verification letter in April that the property is zoned residential and that it is not within a half mile of another family care home.
Once the owner/operator obtains a state license, the village will issue a development permit.
Menke, who could not be reached for comment for this story, said in an earlier interview that in talking with officials at the Moore County Department of Social Services, most of the existing family care homes for seniors in the county are on the campuses of nursing and retirement homes, not in residential neighborhoods.
Of the six, two are in residential areas, according to county Social Services Director Laura Cockman. One, on Longleaf Drive, is operated by St. Joseph of the Pines, and is near its Pine Knoll campus in Southern Pines. The other is on North Carlisle Street just off Pennsylvania Avenue in Southern Pines near the Sandhills-Moore Coalition.
Quail Haven Village on Blake Boulevard in Pinehurst and St. Joseph on its Belle Meade campus in Southern Pines each operate two homes on their respective properties.
St. Joseph spokesman Ted Natt Jr. said if there was not a sign in front of the one on Longleaf Drive, no one would know it is a family care home.
Cockman said Monday that she is not aware of any complaints being lodged by neighbors of those two homes.
“People are envisioning it as something that it is not,” Cockman said Monday afternoon, in reference to assertions by Donald Ross Drive residents that a family care home operates more like a business. “It is really more like home living. Some people don’t do well in larger facilities. They prefer a smaller setting. It is like a home for them. … We welcome family care homes. They provide needed care to our aging population. There is going to be more and more need for this in our county.”
She added that there are a number of group homes for people with different disabilities throughout the county that are in residential neighborhoods.
Cockman said the state has a number of requirements family care homes must meet to receive a license. She said the administrator must also meet certain training requirements.
“They are held to some standards and conditions, and will be monitored quarterly for compliance,” Cockman said. “They have rules they have to follow.”
Cockman said while the county agency is the first point of contact for an applicant, the license is issued by the state. She said once all of the paperwork is completed, it is sent to the Division of Health Service Regulation.
Benton, who owns a company called Transitioning Senior Consultants that places residents in these type of homes across the state, said Tuesday morning that she continues to field questions and concerns from residents of the Donald Ross Drive area.
“This is just like any other family home,” she said. “We will have some seniors living here with someone taking care of them.”
She said previously that her goal is “to have a peaceful existence and to not bother the neighbors.”
Benton said she has offered to take some residents to see similar homes in Wake County.
“They will see that they (family care homes) are not something to be feared,” she said. “They are no different from any other home.”
Benton said the caregivers offer assistance with cooking, laundry, housekeeping and medications.
Echoing Cockman’s comments, Benton said the state and county monitor family care homes.
“We are held accountable,” Benton said.
Benton said that even though the state allows these type homes to have up to six residents, they are not planning to have that many initially. She it will likely be one or two to start.
“We are doing this gradually,” she said. “We are not rushing into this. This is not about money, this is about care. We want to provide the best care possible for our residents.”