Like it or not – and a lot of Signal Mountain residents are downright disapproving – Alexian Village can go ahead with its proposal to build a five-story long-term residential building on its existing campus.
But that doesn’t mean Alexian officials can proceed with the three-phase project as planned, members of the town’s Design Review Commission said Tuesday evening during a hearing attended by a standing-room-only crowd of determined proponents and equally ardent opponents.
“Probably if Alexian were going to build a village today, they wouldn’t put it on the side of a mountain,” DRC member Vance Travis observed.
“But the beauty is in the details . . . A lot of people are concerned about height. I’m more concerned about caliber of (building) materials . . . (and) parking.”
For example, Mr. Travis said, Alexian’s plan call for construction of a parking lot designed to hold 64 cars that “looks a lot like a retail center.”
“Break it up!” he urged.
Another problem, he noted, is that although Alexian promised to maintain the character of the current complex, which feature large quantities of mountain stone as a building material, they substituted other materials in the proposed structure.
That needs to be changed, he stressed, as Alexian officials nodded in agreement. Although the original plans called for only a small amount of mountain stone around the entrance to the building, they said, they have agreed to include more of the material.
Critics emphasized that they believe Alexian is a valuable member of the community, and provides urgently needed services for the elderly. But that doesn’t mean it should be allowed to make changes to its campus that are detrimental to the residential neighborhoods that surround it, they said, noting that a five-story building is out of place in a single-family residential neighborhood.
Alexian officials, on the other hand, said adding the proposed fifth story is the only feasible way to make room for improvements designed to provide residents with the sense of being part of a community while, at the same time, ensuring they have privacy and preserving their dignity.
There isn’t enough room for the building to expand outward, they said, but it is feasible to make it a little taller.
Another public hearing will be held in May to determine whether changes mandated by the design review commission have been made.