Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Hoover hearing at healthcare facility exposes divisions between officials and developers and accusations of ‘blackmail’

By Vaseline May30,2024

A hearing earlier this week in Hoover on a proposed health care facility revealed an ongoing battle between city officials and a group led by the sister of a former mayor.

Testimony at a certificate of need hearing Tuesday addressed Riverwalk Village, a new mixed-use development that would be located on a 200-acre site near Riverchase Parkway with 450,000 square feet of existing corporate offices.

Part of the development will be the Riverwalk Health & Wellness Center, which city officials said earlier this year would offer health care services from pediatrics to geriatrics. Development company Healthcare Resources purchased the 91-hectare Regions Bank North and South Buildings.

To greenlight the project, city officials must obtain a Certificate of Need, proving the need for a health care facility and avoiding duplication of efforts in a given area. An administrative law judge will later make a recommendation to the state’s Certificate of Need Review Board.

The project’s opponent is the Forest Park Group, which is led by Loree Skelton, the sister of former Hoover Mayor Brian Skelton. Loree Skelton is also CEO of South Haven Nursing Home in Hoover.

Hoover officials say the medical facility is needed given the growth in Hoover and Shelby County. The project would also breathe new life into the Riverchase area.

Furthermore, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato testified that the existing infrastructure is already in place. He said the project would accomplish the same thing for the city’s health care system that the Riverchase Galleria did for retail and the Hoover Met did for sports.

“We didn’t even have to do a traffic study,” he says. “This is the best place.”

David Belser, an attorney for Skelton, said Skelton was not involved with the city on a health care project at Stadium Trace Village in Hoover until April of this year.

One aspect of the second phase of Hoover’s Stadium Trace Village development is a 50,000-square-foot site. surgical hospital with 25 beds and 20,000 square meters of space for medical offices.

Belser also said the Riverwalk project does not have any letters of support from Shelby County physicians.

An attorney for the Hoover Health Care Authority, Cason Kirby, said the reason for the opposition to the Riverwalk Village project is because Skelton’s project was not chosen by the city’s health care authority. He called the Forest Park Group “a deliberately opaque company with no history and a questionable future,” using the CON hearing to influence the city.

Brocato said during Tuesday’s hearing that he never challenged an operations center for Stadium Trace Village.

He also said that Pat Lynch, a lobbyist for developer Broad Metro who supported the Stadium Trace project, told him in March that opposition could disappear if he supported an incentive package for Stadium Trace Village.

“I was really stunned that he asked me that question because he’s my friend,” Brocato said. “I said, ‘No, I’m not going to do that. That sounds a bit like blackmail.’”

In an affidavit, Lynch said Broad Metro has never “attempted to intimidate, extort or blackmail any Hoover city official.”

Belser said the city essentially took Skelton’s ideas for a boutique hospital and repackaged them into an economic development project.

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