Free Clinic Meets Zoning

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2011

FARMVILLE – Town Manager Gerald Spates told Town Council Wednesday night that the planned Heart of Virginia Free Clinic conforms with Farmville's zoning ordinance.

“I have looked at what they're proposing to do. I think it does fall within the guidelines of the zoning ordinance, in that it is a professional public office so I see no reason to not allow them to come and purchase a business license and operate as a free clinic,” said Spates, who is also the Town's zoning administrator.

The Free Clinic will use the former Daily Grind building at the corner of Main and Third Streets and operate by appointment, with appointments scheduled after 5 p.m.<br />
Town council member and planning commission member Dr. Edward I. Gordon asked if it should be referred to the planning commission for discussion but Spates told him, “it's a zoning determination. I'm the zoning administrator.”

“And you can make that decision,” council member David E. Whitus pointed out.

“And I can make that decision,” Spates said.

Dr. Gordon had no problem with that.

“Okay, that's fine with me,” Dr. Gordon said.

Spates explained that if it was a zoning matter that requires a conditional use permit “then it would go to the planning commission.”

Even now, Spates said, Town Council could ask the planning commission to review the Free Clinic's planned use of the building. “I mean, I'd rather have somebody else look at it with me,” the town manager said, “but I just don't see any reason that you can turn it down.”

But Dr. Gordon said that with everything Spates cited being true he saw no need to send it to planning commission, which, he said, has enough on its agenda already.

“I think it meets it,” Spates reiterated regarding the Free Clinic's planned use of the building and the Town's zoning ordinance.

The organization's president, Rev. Sylvia Meadows, told Town Council earlier this summer that the free clinic will be “a professional medical building. It will be like a typical office, doctor's office…”

There would be no lines of people on the sidewalk, nor patients competing for parking spaces during the normal business day, Rev. Meadows said, because the free clinic would be depending upon professional medical volunteers who would treat patients after their own business hours.

During the normal business day, someone would staff the office to schedule appointments, she told Town Council, and conduct some eligibility screening.

“All of the clients that will be seen in the free clinic will be scheduled for appointments.

And, she said, “There will be eligibility screening for each person or family that is served by the free clinic. Some of the eligibility screening will occur during the daytime but much of it will be in the evening.

“And medical appointments for the clinic itself will all be after 5 p.m. at night because we are being served by volunteers-volunteer doctors, volunteer nurses, nurse practitioners-so it will not even be during the daytime that the clinic will initially see folks,” she told town officials.

The free clinic would provide medical care to those ages 18 to 64, working or between jobs, who don't have medical insurance. It would not serve those who are on Medicaid or Medicare, offer OB services, nor offer emergency room services, or treat children.

As for parking, Rev. Meadows observed “it seems to me that whatever is in that building will have the same type of parking issues that any business would.”

The clinic's clients will mostly be people with blood pressure issues, diabetes, cholesterol, and asthma. “They'll be no emergency rescue squads coming through…There will be no acute care,” she said.

The free clinic will be collaborating with the organization Volunteers In Medicine (VIM), a group that has started 85 different clinics in the U.S. and all of the clinics “are thriving,” Rev. Meadows said.

VIM made a site visit to Farmville-the organization's executive director flying in from Vermont-in May.

Discussing the need for a free clinic to serve the Heart of Virginia, Rev. Meadows noted that more than 47 million Americans are uninsured “and this number is growing at a rate of 2,000 per day. Most of the uninsured Americans-75.7 percent-are members of working families, which I think is really different than what we envision when we think about clinics.”

The Farmville region is “one of the areas of Virginia that has the most severe poverty,” Rev. Meadows said, “and it is one of the only areas in Virginia that currently does not have a clinic.”