By Mark Waite
The concrete foundation has already been laid for the Pahrump Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility at 1550 S. Java Ave., following a ground- breaking in May. The construction trucks are lined up at the property, a power line connected and a water tank installed.
But competitor Creekmore Health Care asked whether the project met state requirements when Pahrump Land Development went before the Pahrump Regional Planning Commission Wednesday to get a conditional use permit to improve the driveway entrance. Brin Gibson, an attorney with Lionel, Sawyer and Collins, representing The Creekmore, asked whether the facility obtained a certificate of need CON from the state.
The Creekmore owns Pahrump Health Care LLC. Company owner S.C. Creekmore expressed an interest in building a Pahrump hospital back in 2003 and submitted an application to the state to build Southern Nye County Medical Center on property down the street from Evergreen at Pahrump on 4501 N. Blagg Rd.
People who lived in Pahrump for more than 11 years remember that CON process, which was a stumbling block for the construction of a local hospital. It led to at least a two-year delay in the project when a CON was awarded to Banner Health Systems over Johnson Controls to build a hospital in 2001, a company which later backed out of the project after a restructuring.
The $7.2 million Pahrump Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility is to be a two story, 49,455-square-foot building with 71 independent assisted living and memory care apartments. It will generate 150 construction and 50 permanent jobs. The facility is behind a day care facility, Pahrump Early Learning Academy, and J.G. Johnson Elementary School.
The project is classified by planning as an intermediate care facility, a residential facility usually occupied by people not requiring hospitalization or a skilled nursing facility but who require rooms, meals, personal care and health monitoring under the supervision of a professional nurse.
Chris Dingell, planning coordinator for the Focus Property Group, said the RPC already permitted the assisted living facility, which is up to code and under construction. Pahrump Land Company bought an adjacent lot to add parking and straighten out the entrance.
“This will help the entrance easier, moving people in and out,” Dingell said.
“It seems to me like it’s a much better plan, you don’t have anybody backing into traffic going in and out of the facility at all,” RPC Chairman Terry Hand said.
RPC member Vicky Parker liked the fact there’s more trees and landscaping. There will be a circular entrance, she said.
Gibson wanted Pahrump Land Company to provide more information and clarify for the record whether they obtained the CON.
“In particular we believe the record should reflect whether the proposed assisted living facility requires a certificate of need approval from the state and if so, whether the applicant has applied for the approval,” Gibson said.
He cited Nevada Revised Statute 493A.100 requiring the CON from the Nevada Health Division in a county of less than 100,000 population if a person undertakes an expenditure for new construction of a health facility costing greater than $2 million.
Anyone who intends to operate a project must submit an application and conduct a public hearing under Nevada Administrative Code, he said.
“The primary purpose of the process is to make sure the health care costs are contained. They do this by requiring anyone who’s going to operate a facility to demonstrate the need for such a project,” Gibson said. It’s intended to prevent “any siphoning of people who would be currently served by other projects.”
Gibson said it’s not clear to his firm exactly what services would be offered at this location. The local ordinance definition of intermediate facility is different from the state definitions, he said.
Mark Fiorentino, an attorney who represents Focus Property Group, told the Pahrump Valley Times afterwards, “We’re working with the state. There’s a whole process you go through on these assisted living facilities first to determine whether it needs a state certificate and if so, then to go through the process of getting one. We’re working with the state now and we’re going to fully cooperate with whatever the state requirements are. It has not been determined if we need one, but if we do, we’ll go get one.”
The RPC chairman, Hand, had an easy out: “This body does not have jurisdiction over what you’re talking about. You’re preaching to a choir here. We are here strictly to give a conditional use permit for the land.”
Deputy District Attorney Charles Watkins concurred. Gibson said, “As an attorney, what I’m trying to do is create a record so going forward there’s a record of our objection or request for clarification.”
Hand suggested Gibson take up the matter with the DA’s office.
A CUP is a special review, examination or findings of a project under Nye County Code, Nye County Planner Director Steve Osborne said.
“When the planning commission finds that an application for a conditional use permit demonstrates the standards and requirements in the code are met, the planning commission shall issue such permit. But it also can add conditions it deems necessary,” Osborne said.
“Whether the project meets the standards, that would be up to the judgment of the individual RPC member,” Osborne said.
The duty of the RPC is to spell out the rationale for approving the proposed use in eight findings.