Health & Medicine

Neighbors see design of Southland Drive clinic; flooding concerns remain

Neighbors continued to voice concerns about stormwater runoff and flooding even as HealthFirst Bluegrass unveiled final plans Wednesday for its $11.7 million clinic on Southland Drive.

"If any water comes off of that lot, it is going into our neighborhoods," said Helen Morrison, a member of the neighborhood advisory committee that was created to work on the design with HealthFirst.

There were few questions as Harding Dowell, the project architect for EOP Architects, revealed a two-story, 34,000-square-foot steel and glass design that will replace the current building at 496 Southland Drive. Near the entrance, it is to feature an exterior "living wall": a two-story cage over the facade that is to be planted with native vegetation and be maintained by a misting system. HealthFirst declined to release a rendering of the project, which is financed by a federal grant, until the board votes on it Thursday.

The questions came after an explanation of the site plan by Mike Woolum of Strand Associates.

Morrison and Ken Cooke, secretary of Friends of Wolf Run Inc., expressed concerns about how the building and parking lot would affect the already flood-prone area. Cooke said he was impressed with the community involvement and information that had been presented overall, but that some basic information about the effect on the surrounding stormwater systems was not forthcoming.

He said he was worried that HealthFirst might lean toward what he called the "zero option," which would be to construct the building without allowing for additional runoff. The zero option could be allowed under current rules, he said, but it "would be untenable." Neighbors would fight that, going to court if necessary, he said.

Tom Burich, head of the HealthFirst building committee, told Cooke that it was too soon to have the numbers Cooke was asking for and that HealthFirst would keep the neighbors in the loop as plans progress.

"Nobody is going to try to do anything to pull the wool over anybody's eyes," Burich said.

"We just need to have some time," Woolum said. "We will put it all out on the table."

Burich said HealthFirst, which has held two lively public meetings about the project, plans to hold a third meeting. The date has not been set.

HealthFirst, a non-profit primary care clinic supported mostly through tax dollars, serves about 17,000 patients a year, many of them poor, at a clinic at 650 Newtown Pike. That clinic will continue to operate. Health officials say they hope the Southland location will attract more patients from the south side of Lexington.

The Southland location was approved by the HealthFirst board in May after an extensive search for a property to renovate. The decision was made later to build instead.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader