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New emergency medical facility up for vote in Centennial

Residents have traffic concerns; city says medical use valid


After a vote of approval by a city commission, Centennial is close to green-lighting a new emergency-room facility at the corner of East Dry Creek Road and South Colorado Boulevard.

Some residents have expressed concern over possible traffic problems the new medical center — which would be called either the Dry Creek Family Emergency Center or the Centennial Family Emergency Center — could pose to the area.

“We don't need it, and the traffic impact will be terrible,” said Carol Warner, a resident who spoke against the proposal at an Oct. 11 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

That commission approved the plan, which didn't require a rezoning because the area has a general commercial zoning designation, by a vote of 6-1. City council will have the final vote at its Nov. 13 meeting. If approved, the center is expected to open in 2018, with an eight-month construction period that would likely start in early 2018.

Warner, one of 10 residents who opposed the plan at the public hearing during that meeting, argues that the facility is unnecessary because there are already enough urgent care and emergency room locations within a five-mile radius of the intersection.

“I live in the neighborhood a little to the north of (the intersection), and I can barely get out of my neighborhood to turn south” in the morning and evening rush hour, said Warner, who had lived in the Knolls neighborhood for 40 years and has lived in the Vista Pointe neighborhood for three. She's worried that the traffic that she says gets backed up to South Dexter Way on westbound East Dry Creek Road in the evening will be worsened by the proposal and that drivers' only viable option would be to cut through nearby neighborhoods.

Warner said another neighborhood, Bella Vista, which sits immediately east of the proposed site, could have the entry and exit to their neighborhood — East Hinsdale Circle — blocked by backed up traffic.

Dr. Henry Higgins, the CEO of the company that aims to open the facility, has had meetings with city officials and neighbors in the area. Higgins said there's been positive and negative feedback.

"A lot of the negative feedback is from people just not understanding what we’re building," said Higgins, whose company is called Family Emergency Rooms LLC and is based in Texas. "They’re afraid we’re trying to put an inner-city ER in their neighborhood, and that’s just not the case. We're not gonna have a lot of noisy sirens" based on the population demographics of the city, he said.

Higgins said having an emergency center not attached to a hospital benefits both doctors and patients.

"We feel that by removing the hospitals owning everything, it allows the doctors to greatly increase the care that's offered," Higgins said. It's "much better faster, more convenient and for less cost ... we also have the benefit of not having any waiting for your care. There's hardly any waiting in our emergency rooms."

Tamara Hunter-Maurer, a city council candidate for District 2, sent the city an email in December concerned about the two-story design allowing people in the proposed building to look into homes to the northeast. But the city says the building would be only one story with an architectural tower, according to Allison Wittern, spokeswoman for Centennial.

Maurer, a vice president of the Centennial Council of Neighborhoods — or CenCON — raised the issue of a lack of pedestrian lights on the south and west sides of the building as well as her concern that other lights on the property would be high enough to disturb townhomes nearby. The city has addressed those issues, and light spill to the homes was decreased, Wittern said.

According to the city's online traffic count data, the intersection at East Dry Creek Road and South Colorado Boulevard is not among the busiest major intersections in Centennial. Points along East Smoky Hill Road, South Buckley Road, East County Line Road, South University Boulevard and several points along East Arapahoe Road outpace it by thousands of cars per day.

But Warner and other residents are still concerned about traffic, partly because a gas station sits immediately north of the site. Access to the site would be limited to a right-turn entry and right-turn exit on East Dry Creek Road, and one right-turn entry on South Colorado Boulevard. Barring left-hand turns in or out is better for safety, the city said.

“If you come between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., it's not that bad,” Warner said. “But as far as I know, emergencies are not scheduled.”

There are at least three emergency-room facilities within a five-mile radius of the site, but the proposal's applicant said there are opportunities for use of the new medical facility in the community. The facility would offer emergency-room care 24/7.

The city said that putting a medical facility of that nature at the site would be the least traffic-intensive use for that area.


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