Chapa-De pulls plug on clinic
Auburn-based Chapa-De Indian Health Program will no longer pursue a Grass Valley clinic.
After nearly a year of setbacks, the clinic’s board of directors has sent a letter to the city stating it will not oppose a city councilman’s appeal which would have required them to submit a focused environmental impact report on traffic concerns.
“The sad state is at the moment the project will not go forward,” said Chapa-De attorney Mark Merin. “There is some irrational other agenda imposing such burdens that (the board) can’t reasonably be expected go forward. They will not do the traffic study. There isn’t a line item in their budget for this kind of huge expense.”
Merin said the city’s insistence on the new traffic study was, “just another level of delay and bureaucracy with no assurance of success at the end.
“We would have to see some friendly response from the city,” Merin continued. “We would like to hope that the city will recognize that this is a great opportunity to get a state-of-the-art public health facility, and will work with us instead of against us. Absent that, we can’t force the city to work with us.”
Chapa-De had hoped to build a 44,000 square foot clinic on a 12-acre parcel at the corner of Sierra College Drive and East Main Street. The nonprofit group has a full clinic in Auburn and offers limited services both to Indian and non-Indian clients at its Grass Valley facilities on Presley Way.
The group ran into numerous bumps on the road to gaining approval of the proposed clinic. Last spring, members of the planning commission questioned undedicated land in the proposal, apparently fearing the group planned to build a casino. Chapa-De director Carol Ervin told the commission at that time there were no plans to build a gaming facility. A casino on that land would be illegal under federal law, which states that lands acquired after 1988 are ineligible for such use.
In mid-October, the Planning Commission voted to approve the clinic, but Councilman Steve Enos appealed the decision, saying the traffic study was inadequate.
“I don’t mind jumping through hoops but it has to stop at some point,” Ervin said. “It is a huge disappointment. This was a very exciting project to bring a service that is needed in the Grass Valley area, or at least so we thought.”
Mayor Patti Ingram expressed surprise at Chape-De’s decision, saying the city had entered into an agreement with a cooling-off period.
“They entered into the agreement knowing we wanted to come to a resolution and they have chosen not to,” she said. “I wouldn’t go back and revisit the plan without them complying with the agreement.”
Council member Linda Stevens concurred, saying she wouldn’t consider revisiting the issue.
“That’s not the way it works,” she said. “This is a community-oriented area, and people have to realize they’re coming into a community and they have to be accepted and do the things they have to do to be accepted. You can’t come in with the attitude that I want what I want when I want it. You need to understand that you have to be accepted by the whole community, or you’ll keep running into roadblocks.”
Stevens said Chapa-De did not follow the city’s design guidelines in planning the clinic project and would not change contentious design items such as fencing and parking lots.
“I’ve always worked on the premise that we did everything they wanted us to do,” said Ervin. “We did a traffic study that we understood met the requirements, and for them to run around in midstream, that was just too ridiculous. I think the sentiment is that there seemed to be some sort of vendetta.”
“Either someone has an ax to grind and they want the property developed in another way, or they really think a casino could go in,” said Gary
Clelan, who has used the Auburn clinic for 20 years, said, “Really, it appalls me that they would block it, when they zoned that property commercial, and it’s surrounded by medical offices and the junior college.”
Tsi-Akim Maidu tribal chairman Don Ryberg said the local Indian community is outraged at what they perceive as paranoia by the county.
“Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed in 150 years,” Ryberg said. Ervin said there are no plans for the parcel but that selling it is not currently an option. “My ideal world is that somehow Grass Valley will wake up and say ‘this was a good project and let’s go back and see if we can work this out,'” she said.
Grass Valley clinic administrator Susan Thorn said that while the facility is cramped, the staff will continue to provide the same level of care.
A top priority for the clinic was obtaining hospital privileges, a move that now will have to be put on hold. In order to gain privileges the clinic would need to have three or four physicians who could be on call. The current facility cannot support a staff that large.
Thorn said the clinic is scheduling new patient visits a month out, and cannot accept new patients who might require hospitalization.
“When all is said and done, it comes down to patient care, and they’re the ones that lose,” she said.
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