August 23, 2016 (Telluride, CO) – For over a year, development of the Telluride Hospital District’s (THD) envisioned new facility in Mountain Village has hinged on a wetlands permit approval from the United States Army Corps of Engineers; in their latest correspondence, the Corps issued a request for more information and introduced new objections, putting off a final determination regarding the permit.
According to THD representatives, the letter, dated August 15, seemed to signal a change in tone, which they fear could put the future site of the Telluride Regional Medical Center once again in question. [See the latest Corps letter here.]
“We very much were expecting an approval of our permit after the previous letter and acknowledgement from the Corps that there are no other viable options for a medical facility in the region,” said John Gardner, CEO of the Telluride Regional Medical Center.
The previous Corps correspondence, issued in April, read as if a green light for the new facility was imminent: “The Corps has determined that the overall project purpose is to construct an expanded medical center facility that will meet the requirements of a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) compliant facility to serve the Telluride region. The Corps assessed the alternative analysis information you provided in light of the overall project purpose and it appears that at this point there is no other practical alternative location to achieve the overall project purpose.” [See the Corps letter here.]
“Whereas it previously seemed like we were in-step with the permitting process and headed towards an approval, it now seems we’ve been significantly setback – which is disheartening considering the real and immediate capacity issues our current facility faces,” said Gardner.
The latest Corps letter brings into question the possibility of other available parcels.
“We’re dumfounded as nothing, to our knowledge, has changed since April. We know of no other parcels of land in the region that are suitable or even available for a facility to serve the community,” said Gardner.
If granted, the wetland permit would allow the THD to impact wetlands on a parcel of land located next to Mountain Village Town Hall and the Gondola Parking Garage, which THD acquired from the Town of Mountain Village in June 2015.
The request is to impact and mitigate 0.44 acres of wetlands located on the site to accommodate a Critical Access Hospital, designed by THD to serve a community that is currently underserved given the limitations of the aging 9800 square-foot facility located in the Depot District of Telluride. THD maintains the current medical center is lacking opportunities for sufficient updates and expansions to meet the current and future health care needs of the community.
Since 2006, the THD, recognizing the space limitations in the existing facility, embarked on a process to identify a new site to construct and operate a new, replacement hospital. The process led to the identification of 22 potential sites that THD determined merited further evaluation for the possible acquisition and siting of the new hospital. Last week the THD published on their website a decade-long timeline of the process.
After studying the available sites—including a Pearl Property parcel within the Town of Telluride that voters ultimately turned down for development for a medical facility in November 2014—THD determined that the site offered by the Town of Mountain Village was the only viable property, based upon cost considerations; access to parking and public transportation; applicable land use provisions; and similar considerations.
The wetlands permit application was submitted in February 2015 and later modified it to facilitate the development of the Critical Access Hospital—a designation that changed the scope of the development so to allow for future development and make the organization more financially viable.
Since closing on the Mountain Village parcel in June 2015, THD along with the Town of Mountain Village have responded to questions and provided additional information to the Corps, sister agencies and the public, in order to establish a clear, detailed record for the Corps to consider and evaluate in making a decision on the permit.
According to Gardner, due to the substantial request for information, the hospital district is requesting a 90-day extension to assemble the information.