Board gives nod to new Meredith health center


August 05, 2009
MEREDITH — The Meredith Planning Board gave conditional approval last week for the construction of a new Belknap Family Health Center facility on Route 3, and for the old one to be torn down.

Currently, the Belknap Family Health Center is a 6,000 square foot medical office building, situated on the corner of Lower Ladd Hill Road and Rt. 3. Due to the building's age and the cost involved in maintenance, Lakes Region General Healthcare, the owner of the clinic, decided against a 6,000 sq. ft. addition, and opted instead for a new, larger two-story clinic of 14,000 sq. ft.

"The building is old, and not in good shape," said LRGH Director of Risk Management Mitchell Jean. "We needed to address the growing need for health care. We decided that expanding the existing building was not a good idea, and decided on a new structure."

The Belknap Family Health Care facility currently offers primary medical care, lab services, physical therapy, and rehabilitation. With the new facility, Jean said, the center would likely have additional staff and providers to help with additional patients. The practice at the center is currently full.

"We get new patients as the area continues to grow, and the practice is full," said Jean. "With the increasing demand, we're looking to meet that demand, and make it more convenient for people in the area."

In order to create the facility, Steven Smith of Steven Smith Associates, who worked on the site plan, said that the last residence on the center property would be removed. In its place will be the new facility.

Construction will take place in a timeline that will allow the health center to stay open, Smith said. Once construction is complete and the center can transfer to the new building, the old building will be torn down, and parking expanded in its place, creating a total of 96 spaces.

Smith said that LRGH also intended to improve drainage on the property, increasing the number of catchbasins and adding a wall to direct the flow of water into the detention pond, which has several issues that Smith said would also be resolved. The system would not control the amount of water on the property, but would control the "rate of discharge," keeping the water from rushing into the stream and across properties all at once.

Landscaper Tim Jordan said the clinic and upper parking lot would be visible from Rt. 3, but said that one of their goals is for people to see it from the road. Some trees will be thinned, but Jordan said they wanted to maintain trees on the property, and plant some new ones in the parking lot area.

"Our goal is to create some visibility," said Jordan. "Right now, you can drive by the building now and not know it's there."

Several abutters to the property came to ask questions about the plans for lighting and placement of the air conditioning unit to cut down on noise. Since the lot is often used for parking and shuttle buses during Motorcycle Week, residents wanted to know if this would increase. Selectman representative Bob Flanders said that parts of the lot were used, "mostly for vendors."

Residents asked about other uses of the parking lot, such as for craft fairs. Code Enforcement Officer Bill Edney said that if there are other such uses, he and the town "need to know about that."

The new building, expected to be sage green, will have "more of a residential feel," according to architect Michael Rodgers. He said that the plan was for some false windows and gables will break up the size of the roof.

The appearance of the roof, however, was a matter of concern for Flanders. Because of the higher elevation of Rt. 3 as people drive into Meredith, Flanders said that the roof would likely "jump out" at drivers during the winter months. He recommended that the architects extend the gables to further break up the roof, which he said could be done for a few thousand dollars per gable.

"I'm concerned that this thing will jump out and look unattractive," said Flanders.

Board member John Dever countered that though the building would be bigger than a house, there wouldn't be much difference in the peak. Flanders said that when he was working on the committee for the Meredith Police Station, they worked on gables in the roof to "make it look smaller."

"Is that what makes it look so small?" replied board Chair Herb Vadney. "I'm hesitant to say that bigger (gables) would be better."

The board gave conditional approval to the site plan and architectural design, with a provision on the latter "to review the eastern roof line and make efforts to reduce the visual mass of the roof."

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