Master plan for new VA Hospital unveiled amidst controversy


by Chelsea Rabideau

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 12:50 AM

Updated Thursday, Nov 15 at 1:00 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Plans for a new veterans hospital here in Louisville continue to stir up controversy. The Department of Veterans Affairs held a public meeting on Wednesday night to get input on their master plan. But, they’re having trouble getting neighbors of the proposed hospital on board.

There are a lot of concerns about the new hospital. People are worried about light pollution, traffic, and eventual expansions. But, it all seems to boil down to one issue time and again, the location.
As the VA Department lays it out, there are five major steps to getting a new VA hospital built; pick a location, finalize a master plan, design and construct the hospital, and open for business. The location has been selected, a 35-acre plot of land cornering US 42 and the US 22 section of Brownsboro Road near Holiday Manor. Now, step two, the master plan has been unveiled.
“It's an exciting endeavor and I think it's going to be a reality and we're moving forward in fine fashion," Wayne Pfeffer, the VA Medical Center director, said.

While the planners are anxious to move forward, there is still a large contingent of people grappling with step one, the location, even though land has already been purchased by the federal government; especially, because the location happens to be right in their neighborhood.

"Our main concern is still that the VA hospital is being placed in the wrong location for the veterans and for the community as a whole," explained Eric Gunderson.

He’s a part of Grow Smart Louisville, a group formed of people living around the site of the proposed hospital, concerned with how decisions are being made so far.

“We're finding a lot of discrepancies about what some of the rules and regulations are that the VA is supposed to follow in terms of their site selection that haven't been followed,” he argued.

The group has filed a formal letter with the VA Department outlining their concerns. Still, Pfeffer doesn’t see any roadblocks in getting the hospital built at the Brownsboro site.

"Actually, there aren't any,” He said, “It's moving along very nicely and the master plan seems to fit in very good with the parcel of land and everything is falling into place as well or better than expected."
But, the people who will have to make room for the changes the hospital will bring to their neighborhood have a different take on the process.

"I think our biggest challenge right now is that the general public just feels like it's over. I've talked to a lot of community leaders that feel like it's over, the land has been purchased so this is a done deal," said Gunderson. “It's not a done deal until something is built on that site."

It seems another major concern among residents of the area is the belief that eventually the hospital will expand and the VA Department will begin taking people’s homes and properties by eminent domain. All the VA Department would say to those questions is that they have no plans in the foreseeable future to expand past the existing acreage. But, they also wouldn’t guarantee anything.