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City Council OKs health-ed building

Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker listen to residents' comments about the Joint Health Education Center.                                   Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker listen to residents' comments about the Joint Health Education Center.

Despite residents' concerns about traffic, the Hendersonville City Council last week gave its blessing to the three-story Joint Health Education Center on two acres of land on Sixth Avenue West at North Oak Street.

The council heard residents' complaints about the expected construction commotion and later the daily traffic in and out of the 98,000-square-foot building that is resulting from an unprecedented five-party agreement among the city, county, Wingate University, BRCC and Pardee Hospital. Although council members directed the city staff to figure out a way to widen Oak Street by 4 feet, to 22 feet, from Sixth to Seventh Avenue, they approved the site plan with no conditions.

Dorothy Means, who lives at 831 N. Oak St., predicted that the new development will add to neighborhood congestion caused by traffic going to and from three city schools.

"They're saying there won't be much on our end of Ninth Avenue," she said. "Is there any guarantee? We are being pushed out of our own neighborhood. ... My concern is the traffic."

Architect Chad Robertson and engineer Tom Jones said contracts for the work would control heavy construction traffic as much as possible. "We'll get a survey and start developing a game plan on how we can widen the street," City Manager John Connet said. "We'll meet with the designer for the building to see if we can get right of way as part of their project and see if we can make slight adjustments for the public side."

Although a traffic impact analysis recommended widening Oak Street, Robertson told the city Planning Board that doing that would move the roadway too close to the building's west face.

"That'll be the question, whether we can get a foot or two on the east side of North Oak where building is or whether we have to get all of that on the west wide," Connet said. "I understand Chad's position that he can't move the building and he doesn't want to change the design but from the city's perspective it would be a mistake not to address the width of the street now. Instead of letting them build the building and then come back up in two or three years, it's better to resolve it now. We'd have to take out all the new infrastructure. We might as well do it right the first time."

The City Council's action to approve the development was the last major review the $32 million project needed to go forward. A groundbreaking is set for March 19.