Town OKs changes for CMC pavilion

Emergency medical services could soon be closer to Harrisburg residents.

Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast has proposed a "healthcare pavilion," an outpatient facility combining an emergency department and a medical office building, near the intersection of Rocky River Road and Stafford Road in Harrisburg.

The emergency department would offer 24-hour emergency care, and the office building would house several medical practices.

Carolinas Medical Center recently opened its first healthcare pavilion, CMC-Steele Creek, near the corner of Steele Creek Road and South Tryon Street in Charlotte.

CMC-Steele Creek, a 22,500 square-foot facility, has a 24-hour emergency department, physician practices and laboratory services and diagnostic imaging.

The Harrisburg Town Council voted July 12 to grant a voluntary annexation petition for the more than 30-acre property owned by CMC-Northeast on the north side of Rocky River Road. Annexation would allow the facility to connect to town water and sewer services.

Last week, the council voted to approve a request to rezone the property from an office-institutional zoning district to a more general commercial district that would allow a building to be constructed up to 48 feet high rather than 35 feet high.

Town officials said the facility would conform with the Harrisburg Land Use Plan, which leaders use to make decisions about new development and school construction as well as rezoning. The plan classifies the area as one of future employment.

Harrisburg Planning Director Josh Watkins said the facility will bring jobs to the area and increase the town's tax base. An influx of people coming to the health pavilion could also increase business in nearby Brookdale Shopping Center's stores and restaurants, which have suffered during the economic downturn, said Watkins.

The project has been discussed for several years but was stalled because of water and sewer concerns. Now that the Fuda Creek sewer line will be extended from Mecklenburg County through Harrisburg, CMC-Northeast has moved forward with its proposal.

The town council unanimously approved the rezoning request.

The new facility is part of Carolinas HealthCare System's long-term strategy to move more healthcare facilities to areas being developed around the region, said Kevin McCarthy, spokesman for the system, which is the parent company of CMC-Northeast.

McCarthy said the Harrisburg location's proximity to I-485 makes it ideal.

"Nationally, fewer than 10 percent of all patients that come into an emergency room need to be hospitalized," said McCarthy. "About 90 percent can be treated and released without being hospitalized."

Emergency services would allow doctors to assist trauma patients quickly and transfer them to other area hospitals with advanced trauma services if necessary.

There is not yet a timetable set for construction or completion, said McCarthy.