Special Use Permit for residential care facility rejected
Ponca City Now - October 2, 2019 11:37 am
By Beverly Bryant
In a Planning Commission meeting that lasted more than two hours Tuesday night, members of the commission voted 6 to 2 to reject a request for a Special Use Permit for a residential care facility.
Dr. Vishal Aggarwal, a gerontologist from Tulsa, purchased the Rose Stone Inn at 120 South Third Street in February, with the intention of converting it into a residential care facility for ambulatory patients. They would need limited assistance with daily living tasks, he said.
The property lies within Ponca City’s Central Business District.
Development Services Director Chris Henderson said very few Special Use Permits are permitted, and only after two public hearings.
Tuesday night’s meeting was crowded with business owners in the vicinity of the Rose Stone Inn, all speaking against the proposed use.
Dr. Aggarwal said the facility would be a big asset for Kay County. He said as a gerontologist, his patients are not in need of assisted living or nursing home services, which are very expensive.
He said this type of care is not currently available in Kay County. He said the facility would require a license from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and there would be annual inspections.
Dr. Aggarwal said he anticipated up to 40 residents, with 12 to 15 employees providing kitchen services and care to the patients. One administrator would supervise the operations.
Among the types of services that would be provided are diaper changes, assistance with showers, transportation for medical appointments and personal shopping, he said. No physician would be on site.
Many of the new business owners in the Central Avenue area spoke vehemently against the idea, especially after their experiences with the Rose Stone Inn as a hotel which attracted problems.
As many of the business owners spoke, recurring complaints were raised. They spoke of growing their new businesses and becoming more involved with Ponca City’s downtown area, only to watch drug raids and old mattresses left outside at the hotel. Without exception, they said the planned residential care facility would be a big step backward for downtown.
Some of those speaking against the proposal said the inn has only 25 rooms, which would not accommodate 40 residents. They also questioned whether Dr. Aggarwal’s investment in the property would be sufficient to correct the current poor condition of the building.
Others said they have been looking at investing in other buildings along Central Avenue, but were waiting to see what would become of the Rose Stone Inn.
“It hinders downtown workers from coming to our businesses,” said David Anderson. He and his wife Gabby Anderson own Anderson and Co. Salon and Spa. “I will be be withholding future investment if this is approved.”
Kevin Emmons, who lives in Collinsville but owns several businesses in Ponca City, said he had gone through the building and found bed bugs and roof leaks, as well as problems with the way the inn was being managed.
Emmons said he saw potential for a boutique hotel in the building, but future investment would hinge on a lack of concern from management.
“There has been a lot of investment put in this area,” he said.
Richard Winterrowd, who owns the Eastin Properties building housing Equity Bank, also owns several downtown parking lots surrounding the Rose Stone Inn. He said the building was purchased by the previous owner in 2013 and he has seen no improvement in the property since then. Winterrowd said that has been a detriment to the value of his property.
Winterrowd asked pointed questions about the size of the building, whether there was sufficient money to invest in rehabilitating the building, not including upgrades, and if there was a functioning elevator in the building. He asked about the use occupancy for the structure and if it would meet the Universal Building Codes.
Main Street Executive Director Chelsea McConnell said the Main Streeet board does not have enough information to support the Special Use Permit request.
“This use change would not be in the best interest of downtown,” McConnell said.
Responding to the comments and questions, Dr. Aggarwal said he bought the inn in February 2019. He said the previous owner, a Mr. Cho from Enid, had listed the property for more than six months before he bought it. He also said he purchased it with no intention of keeping it as a hotel.
“Since I have gotten the property, code violations forced the closure after I bought it,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of the problems fixed. I’ve spent $3,000 to fix the plumbing and cleaning it up. I’ve spent $6,000 just to get the trash out of the property.
“Getting the unwanted people out of the building will be a positive thing,” he said. “The elevator is functional, but no attention was ever given to it. It will stop and not open. I got a maintenance contract and a state inspection in July and there have been no concerns since.”
He said the building is 19,000 square feet with 25 rooms, and would be fully occupied at 40 residents. If approved by the State Health Department, there would be annual inspections.
Dr. Aggarwal said the building would never be suitable as a boutique hotel.
McConnell said it was “short-sighted to say a boutique hotel would not succeed. It is happening all over the state and nation.”
Kayla Maxwell of Sharp’s Pawn Shop emphasized the growth in the area has come from local ownership.
“We are downtown,” she said. “We are putting our livelihood on the line. Anderson and Co. is immaculate. Vortex Alley Brewing turned a rundown pet shop around and is about to celebrate its second anniversary. We are keeping businesses local.”
Winterrowd said that now knowing the size of the building, he could say that a hotel and the residential care facility would take about the same renovation budget, which would be roughly $1.9 million. He asked if that was in the available budget.
Dr. Aggarwal emphasized that as a hotel, the Rose Stone Inn was not under his control.
“All of these people commenting — they did not buy it for their vision,” he said. “Yes, I live in Tulsa. Geriatric medicine is needed.
“Mr. Cho was more local, but did not maintain or run the place well,” he said. “I don’t want any chains of residential care. Being a physician, but concern is care — $2 million is not in my bucket. I can assure you if it does not have what the state wants, it will remain a hotel, and most likely will remain as it is. It will continue to pull downtown down.
“As a residential care facility, it will only benefit the town and county,” Dr. Aggarwal said.
At the end of comments, Henderson told the commissioners that his staff recommendation was to deny the Special Use Permit or to table the issue. He said in his opinion, the highest and best use of the property is as a hotel. He said the recommendation changed as new information became available.
The board voted 6 to 2 to deny the Special Use Permit.
Dr. Aggarwal said the exchange during the meeting does not put a label on his character.
Of the local business owners, “how did their properties change in six months?” he asked.