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Despite objections from some neighbors, Raleigh’s planning commission on Tuesday approved plans for an East Raleigh brain injury treatment center.
Learning Services Inc. plans to tear down a house to expand its facility on North Rogers Lane. The proposal calls for four one-story rest homes for patients and a daytime treatment center to prepare people with brain injuries to live independently.
“Our goal is to get people back on their feet and living on their own,” said David Carter, an executive with the company.
Church expansion request delayed
Also Tuesday, the planning commission asked a Blue Ridge Road church to revise its expansion plans based on advice from the city’s appearance commission.
First Assembly of God – located between Duraleigh Road and Glen Eden Drive in West Raleigh – wants to double its size with a three-story, 44,000-square-foot expansion.
But the church backs up to a townhome development, and the neighbors there are concerned about what the growth means for them.
“I’m more concerned about my aesthetic and my property if all I’m doing is looking out on a parking lot 24/7,” Deborah Siler said.
The appearance commission has asked First Assembly to add more landscaping and use shorter lampposts to avoid light pollution.
“I’m a little distressed that we’ve got nothing back from this applicant when we’re trying to find common ground,” said planning commission member Steven Schuster.
Eugene Canegata lives across the street from the planned center. He said his neighborhood doesn’t think the business is a good fit. “When I look out my back door, I’m going to see a commercial-style building,” he said.
Canegata said the neighbors had compromised with Learning Services on the project, but that agreement didn’t include a daytime treatment center to serve former residents.
“Our problem was not the service they were providing, but the size of the operation they were planning to put in,” Canegata said. “They have never been forthright with what they planned to do with the site.”
But Robin Currin, an attorney for Learning Services, said the company has made concessions to the neighbors, including capping the number of residents at 36.
“We have always talked about a day center,” she said. “It’s not true that we have not been forthcoming. We have tried to talk to the neighbors the whole time, and I understand there’s been a lot of opposition.”
Currin said the company initially battled misperceptions that its patients are dangerous. That’s not the main concern, Canegata replied – it’s patients wandering away from the center, something that has happened before at the existing 12-bed facility on Rogers Lane.
“The safety concern was not so much are they dangerous to us but are they a risk to us?” he said.
Learning Services has been planning the expansion for years. The Raleigh City Council approved a rezoning request for the project in 2011; Tuesday’s vote involved only the daytime treatment center. The planning commission unanimously agreed to the request, adding stipulations about the height of outdoor lighting and the number of nonresident patients.
The hearing Tuesday didn’t draw as much opposition as earlier meetings involving the project. Canegata says that’s because neighbors didn’t realize the planning commission would take a final vote.
The city council will take up the issue only if opponents appeal the commission’s decision; to do that, they would have to cite a process error by planning staff.