Wellington Zoners OK Alzheimer’s Facility At Church

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board approved a conditional use application Wednesday to allow St. Michael Lutheran Church to host an adult daycare facility for Alzheimer’s patients.

St. Michael, located at 1925 Birkdale Drive, was approved as a new site for Alzheimer’s Community Care after the board made adjustments to the application’s conditions based on a presentation by Associate Planner Cory Lyn Cramer and clarifications from Alzheimer’s Community Care President & CEO Mary Barnes.

With a proposed schedule of 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for up to 45 participants, St. Michael is working on acquiring its Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) licensing and regulation. The program will have a ratio of five participants to one employee, and expects that the vast majority will be Wellington residents.

Cramer noted that there already is a child daycare facility at St. Michael. The adult facility will come to fruition in two phases, first where the maximum number of participants is capped at 25 based on the provided outdoor area of 2,500 square feet, which will then be increased to a total of 45 participants once an additional 2,100 square feet of space is added.

Cramer said that Wellington is currently reviewing its code regarding the issue of outdoor space. The current code, she said, currently requires 100 square feet of outside area per participant.

“We’ve done a little more research with what the required standards are from AHCA and also what the county and the health department require,” she said. “We are most likely, in the next few weeks, going to bring in front of you and in front of the council a zoning text amendment to modify what our code currently requires so that it matches what’s required elsewhere.”

Board Member Elizabeth Mariaca requested clarification about how such a zoning text amendment would alter the space requirements.

“The requirement is kind of a lot, considering that AHCA does not have a requirement. The county, a few years back, modified their requirement for this as well,” Cramer explained. “I’ve spoken with Mary Barnes, and she stated that they do plan on providing outdoor area; however, this requirement is very large. Once we modify that, they’re still planning to have outdoor areas, it just will not be required to meet this 4,500-square-foot space.”

Barnes provided the board with additional details.

“We also, as an organization, established a specialized license in Tallahassee, so there are certain standards in the state legislature and statute that should be met. For instance, you need to also work with the caregiver and make services available to them. You just can’t dump them when patients are no longer benefiting from a service in daycare,” she said.

The Alzheimer’s Community Care program is already in practice in six other churches, she said, noting that the Wellington location would be considered one of the flagship locations. “The church has been very generous and very supportive of us being there,” Barnes said. “It’s a beautiful facility, and we’re converting that facility to match the standards. We’re working in partnership with the church, with the congregation and the community, and we feel it is going to be something everybody is going to be proud of to have.”

While board members supported the idea, they still had concerns.

Board Member Kenneth Kopp asked about the logistics of keeping children separate from the patients, based upon the building’s layout.

“If I am a parent, with a child in the daycare center, what would you say to me to assure me that the separation between the adults and the children would be 100 percent?” Kopp asked.

“The way it’s structured, they are 100 percent,” Barnes said. “However, the relationship that we have with other daycares and other churches — we do have an intergenerational program. There are many times that there’s an adoption, that there’s gifts and an exchange around the holidays and Christmas. It’s very special — remember, all of our patients are mothers and fathers.”

Board Member George Unger asked about security, and whether there will be fencing and shrubbery for both aesthetics and safety.

Barnes explained that the outdoor area will have a fence and will be large enough for the freedom of movement while ensuring participants’ safety.

Board Member Michael Drahos asked about traffic increases, especially considering that the morning time coincides with nearby school drop-off times.

Cramer noted that traffic observations had been taken care of and a formal report was issued showing that there will not be a significant impact.

If there is, Barnes agreed to adjust the opening time of the facility or consider a carpool system.

Board Chair Carol Coleman inquired whether the facility would be nondenominational, and suggested a pickup service if any traffic concerns existed.

Barnes said the facility will be nondenominational, and that they are working with Palm Tran on transportation issues.

Unger made a motion to approve the proposal, which passed 5-0 with board members Paul Adams and Andrew Carduner absent.