ASHEBORO — Despite animosities of the past, the Asheboro City Council approved an annexation petition from Cone Health on property at Spero Road and the interchange with Interstate 73/74. The vote was taken at the council’s Dec. 8 meeting.
Cone purchased the 65 acres to relocate the Cancer Center, now in two locations in Asheboro. Cone had developed the Cancer Center with Randolph Health, but when the local hospital was sold to American Home Health under bankruptcy proceedings, Cone was required to leave because of state requirements.
Cone, a nonprofit, and American Home Health, a for-profit, cannot be adjacent to each other, although a portion of the Cancer Center continues to operate until a new facility is ready.
Under the bankruptcy action, Cone would take over ownership of the Cancer Center but would have to move it away from Randolph Health, and within 10 miles of its current location.
Local animosity grew when Cone Health backed out of negotiations to purchase the financially strapped Randolph Health. That left bankruptcy as the only option left for Randolph.
Mayor Pro Tem Walker Moffitt wouldn’t let those feelings pass, asking Skip Hislop, Cone vice president of Oncology, if the move would not have been necessary had Cone taken over Randolph. Hislop said that was correct.
Currently, the Cancer Center has two locations. Radiation treatments continue at Randolph Health on North Fayetteville Street and chemotherapy takes place at the former Surgery Center on NC 42. The new Cancer Center will merge all treatments into the Spero Road site.
Hislop told the council that the new center will be state-of-the-art, as good as any Cone facility. “Patients won’t have to travel for care,” he said. “We want to do this the right way to enhance cancer care.”
Stage 1 of development of the site will be a 50,000-square-foot cancer facility, Hislop said, with up to another 100,000 square feet that could be developed in a second stage for other treatments. But, he said, the Cancer Center is his only concern at this point. He said hopes are to welcome the first patient by Dec. 24, 2024. “It’s important to get moving now,” he added.
During a public hearing on the annexation petition, Don Pritchard wanted to know what kind of barriers, or buffers, would be used. Pritchard’s residence is near the site.
Trevor Nuttall, director of Community Development for the City of Asheboro, said that, although he’s seen no site plan, normally this type of development would have the third or fourth most intensive buffering. That could be plantings or an opaque fence.
Mayor David Smith asked the Cone representatives, “What’s Plan B if we don’t annex and provide sewer service?”
Nick Wilkinson, Cone assistant director of Government Affairs, said they have an agreement with Asheboro City Schools to access their sewer system, which is on the other side of the interstate. He added that there is a water source on the property. “Plan B would have to go to septic.”
Ben Tuggle, who has interests in the Spero Road area, said, “This is not something we want to see developed. The biggest concern is future development of more than the Cancer Center.”
Smith said, “The city would profit more from commercial development (since nonprofit Cone wouldn't be required to pay taxes). But Cone looked (at other potential sites) and found this the best location.”
To that, Moffitt jabbed, “The best location is Fayetteville Street,” meaning the current Cancer Center at Randolph Health.
City Manager John Ogburn noted that “It’s going to be our citizens in there, our citizens working there. I would recommend annexing so we can provide fire and police protection. The next step will be to have a plan and come here for zoning.”
Council member Clark Bell said, “Annexation won’t change the Cancer Center being built.” Fellow council member Eddie Burks said, “It’s important to provide protection.” To which Ogburn said, “We’ve got to think of the future of health care.”
With a motion to approve the annexation petition, Council member Charles Swiers said, “I hate to hold Cone hostage for past miscommunications.” Bill McCaskill seconded the motion.
Prior to the vote, Smith said, “There is a lot of ill will and hurt feelings. But we need health care for our citizens.”
The vote was 5-1 to approve the petition, with Moffitt the lone dissenter. Jane Redding was recused due to her family’s involvement in the area.
“It’s not an easy decision, not easy to swallow,” Smith said. “I hope for you (Cone) to lobby for the citizens of Asheboro. I want the neighbors to be accommodated.”
In other business, the Council:
•Opted for a peanut-shaped roundabout at the intersection of Salisbury Street and Lexington road.
The Council had received the results of a traffic study by Ramey Kemp Associates, Inc., requested by residents of the area. There were concerns about traffic safety, particularly where Salisbury Street merges onto Lexington Road.
The study found “no obvious safety issues with the intersection.” However, RKA did find a “near-miss problem” and “avoidance” as concerns. Near-miss occurs when vehicles do not collide but avoid collision by the actions of one or more drivers. Avoidance occurs when drivers choose other routes because of the perception of risk.
RKA provided the Council with a choice of four options:
— A four-way stop at the intersection.
— A traffic light, which would be more costly and require the approval of the NC Department of Transportation.
— An elongated, peanut-shaped roundabout.
— Realign Salisbury Street farther south to form an intersection with Winslow Avenue rather than Sunset Drive.
The fourth option would be the most expensive.
Moffitt asked City Engineer Michael Leonard to “inquire with DOT about a peanut roundabout. I could take it to the Transportation Board and look for state funds.”
Nuttall added that a city-preferred option “would score higher” with DOT. “For it to happen, the city would have to participate with the cost.”
Leonard agreed to consult with DOT about a peanut roundabout.
•Agreed to authorize acquisition of the former Acme-McCrary Hosiery Mill facing North Street.
The approximately 150,000 square feet of mill property has been vacant for several years. The city has offered to purchase it for $1 million. The hope is to close the sale by the end of December.
According to Smith, the owners have been unsuccessful in selling the property to developers and prefer the sale go to the city, which is looking for developers to transform the buildings into apartments, commercial and retail or other improvements to downtown.
•Approved a request to enter into an agreement for engineering services with The Wooten Company for proposed Trade Street renovations.
The Trade Street project would make the alley between Fayetteville and North streets more pedestrian friendly with the intent of bringing retail business, such as restaurants, to the location.
•Accepted a bid of $807,801 by Terry’s Plumbing to provide storm sewer installation, sidewalks, parking lot grading and paving at McCrary Ballpark. With a 10 percent contingency added, $888,000 was transferred from the city’s general fund to the McCrary Ballpark Improvements Fund.
•Increased the monthly stipend for members of the ABC and Planning boards from $100 to $150. Those stipends require attendance at meetings.
•Acknowledged the success of the Asheboro High School men’s soccer team, which made it to the semifinals of the state playoffs.
•Voted to extend the Zoo City Social District while tabling changes to the text of the ordinance.
The social district boundaries will expand to include Church Street to Academy, the north side of Academy to Fayetteville Street, the west side of Fayetteville Street from Academy to Trade Street as well as Trade Street. Those new borders will not come into effect until after the first of 2023.
Proposed changes to the social district ordinance reflect amendments to state legislation regulating those districts. Randolph Hub will have in-depth information on the proposed changes in an upcoming edition.