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Carolinas HealthCare to build psych hospital on NC 73

Dr. Roger Ray

Dr. Roger Ray of Carolinas HealthCare System announces the project, as Davidson Mayor John Woods listens. The announcement came at the Lake Norman Chamber in Cornelius on Wednesday. (David Boraks/


Carolinas HealthCare System said Wednesday it will build a $36 million, 66-bed mental health hospital on part of the former Davidson East site, off N.C. 73 east of Davidson, to fill what it says is a need for behavioral health care in the Lake Norman region.

The hospital and a planned medical office building next door would bring 155 jobs to Davidson when it opens in late 2013. And town officials say it could help spur further development of a failed development site that has occupied planners and commissioners for several years.

The Davidson East site was a second choice for the Charlotte-based non-profit CHS after it failed to win approval for the project on land it already owned on N.C. 115 in Huntersville. The Huntersville Town Board in March voted against rezoning for a site off N.C. 115 at Verhoeff Drive.

The proposed Davidson project won’t need additional zoning approvals. Davidson’s Town Board in September 2011 rezoned the property to allow for what planners called “flex campus” development, which could include a health care facility like this one.

And unlike the Huntersville site, which was surrounded by a neighborhood of single-family homes, there are few homes next to the land.


The new NC 73 davidson east zoning map

NC 73 Davidson East zoning map approved in Sept. 2011includes a wide area of "flex campus" zoning (brown), for corporate offices or light industrial uses. The hospital would go on the east side of the site. Click image to download the full map.

CommunityOne Bank owns most of the 180-acre former Davidson East site, which it acquired through foreclosure when the mixed-use project failed. Carolinas HealthCare System said it has an agreement with the bank to buy 23 acres on the east side of the site – a parcel that runs from NC 73 north into the property.

The purchase price was not announced. But the project unveiled Wednesday is about $3 million higher than what CHS planned to spend to build on land it already owned in Huntersville.

The land is on the north side of N.C. 73 east of town, about one quarter mile east of Ramah Church Road and not far from Bradford Park. CHS plans to build a one-story, 67,280-square-foot hospital and a 10,000-square-foot medical office building on the site. CHS said the hospital would have “large activity and living areas that will open to self-contained landscaped courtyards for outdoor recreation in a private, secure environment.”

Hospital site is off NC 73

The hospital site is off NC 73, east of Davidson. On the map, it's at the blue-green leaf logo, east of Ramah Church Rd.

Carolinas HealthCare had been looking for a site for a new behavioral health hospital for several years, because of reductions at state-owned facilities and growth in the need for care in the Charlotte region.

The hospital system says the state-permitted beds are being transferred from in-patient psychiatric beds currently at Broughton Hospital in Morganton.

Mental health patients currently have limited options in the Charlotte region: The 66-bed CMC Randolph and 75-bed Presbyterian behavioral health hospitals in Charlotte are the only ones of their kind in the area, and both are at or beyond capacity, hospital officials said. That leaves many patients to find care at other kinds of facilities.

“The need for expanded services is so urgent,” Dr. Roger Ray, CHS’s chief medical officer, said during an announcement Wednesday at the Lake Norman Chamber.

“Mecklenburg County has had a shortage of behavioral health beds for years. This has led to constant challenges in terms of overcrowding, over-reliance on emergency rooms and acute care hospitals throughout the area. They are just not ideal for meeting the needs of behavioral health patients,” he said.

Carolinas HealthCare System already has state approval – called a certificate of need – to build the new hospital on the Huntersville site. Mary Beth Kuzmanovich of Davidson, a CHS vice president for facilities management, said the group planned to file a request with state officials Wednesday to shift the project to the new site.

That approval could take up to 75 days she said. If that goes as planned, construction would begin in July and the hospital could be open in the third quarter of 2013.

Mayor John Woods

Mayor John Woods spoke Wednesday as CHS's Dr. Tom Gettelman listened. (David Boraks/

Davidson Mayor John Woods said he approached CHS when the original Huntersville plan ran into opposition from neighbors and some Huntersville town officials.

“We appreciate the great need for mental health facilities in our community,” Mayor Woods said. He said CHS could have found land elsewhere in the county, but ended up picking the Davidson site.

“The fact that we have encouraged them and helped them find a site that meets their needs, both accessible-wise and cost-wise, I think it’s a very large plus not just for Davidson, but for the entire north Mecklenburg community.”

The fact that the land was already zoned appropriately was important as CHS tried to get the project back on track, hospital and town officials said Tuesday.

One potential downside, at least financially, for Davidson is the loss of another 23 acres of current taxable property to a tax-exempt non-profit organization that will build a development requiring town services. The exact financial impact wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday.

Mayor Woods said the town and CHS had not discussed that impact, or discussed any potential payment in lieu of taxes. He said bringing a development and jobs to the town trumped those concerns.

“Honestly we felt that the opportunities involving ancillary development and the meeting of a really drastic need in our region overweighed that,” he said.

“We also hope, frankly, that this is the beginning of a corporate campus development (at Davidson East), just as we have rezoned it about six months ago,” he said.

Town Manager Leamon Brice agreed that the loss of tax revenue was not an issue. “We felt like maybe the jobs would make up for that, and that the spinoff that we would anticipate coming from it would be taxpaying,” he said.

Wednesday’s announcement raises new questions about one longstanding Town Hall headache involving the Davidson East site. Owner CommunityOne Bank still has a lawsuit pending against the town, and it was unclear if the hospital proposal changes the situation. Among other things, the bank has argued that the rezoning is not economically viable.


March 6, 2012,, “Huntersville board rejects mental health hospital.”

Jan. 12, 2012,, Town seeks dismissal of bank lawsuit over rezoning.”

Oct. 29, 2011,, “State OKs mental health hospital in Huntersville”

Sept. 14, 2011, “After 9 months, board OKs new Davidson East zoning.”


Here’s the full text of Wednesday’s announcement:

Carolinas HealthCare System Chooses Davidson Site For New Behavioral Health Hospital

New Facility and Services Help Address Unmet Community Need

CHARLOTTE, NC, May 9, 2012 – Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) has chosen a site in Davidson, N.C. for a new 66-bed behavioral health hospital.

“We are eager to move forward with this project and begin building on our promise to provide more behavioral health services for those who desperately need them in our community,” said Dr. Roger Ray, Chief Medical Officer of CHS. “This new hospital will help us address a profound, unmet need in a professional, respectful, patient centric environment.”

The state of North Carolina began down-sizing state psychiatric hospitals following the passage of the Mental Health Reform Act of 2001. To date, about half of the state-operated hospital beds have closed. Mecklenburg County is experiencing a serious shortage of available beds for behavioral health patients, which results in some patients being held in observation in hospital emergency departments or acute care beds while waiting for placement.

The new facility will include a single-story, 67,280-square-foot hospital with large activity and living areas that will open to self-contained landscaped courtyards for outdoor recreation in a private, secure environment.  The 23-acre site also will have a medical office building with 10,000 square feet. CHS and the land owner have an agreement for the sale of the property, which is on Hwy. 73 about a quarter-mile east of Ramah Church Road.

The hospital will feature all private rooms and will employ about 155 full time staff, including physicians and other clinicians. The design will allow expansion by adding a second floor if a future need is determined, and if additional beds are approved by the NC Division of Health Service Regulation. Total estimated cost is about $36 million.

John Woods, Mayor of Davidson, said that the town board is solidly behind the project.  “We couldn’t be more thrilled at the prospect of having a quality facility such as this one in the town of Davidson,” Woods said. “Our community already benefits from other CHS services, including physician practices. We know the kind of commitment CHS and its employees make to the community. We believe this new project will be a model for behavioral healthcare, not just for Davidson but for the entire region.”

“Our emergency rooms and inpatient medical beds are getting backed up with patients whose needs are better met in a mental health facility,” said Dr. Thomas Batchelor, an internist in Huntersville.  “Many of these patients wait days to weeks in the ER for an inpatient mental health bed to open.  The trickle down effect is enormous and even affects my care of patients in the outpatient setting.  This is a national problem but I have seen it first hand locally.”

“The reality today is that many people in our community are in a state of crisis and need the help and assistance that the behavioral health hospital will bring,” said the Rev. Farrell Lemmings, lead pastor at Grace Covenant Church in Cornelius.

“At times life gets difficult and we find ourselves overwhelmed emotionally and the quality of our lives and our families are detrimentally affected.  At these times we need the professional help that qualified personnel can bring.  Just as our other hospitals play a role in the health of our community so I believe the behavioral health hospital will be an asset as well.”

Dr. Ray said the new hospital will be patient-focused to deliver excellent care for behavioral health patients and their families. “We are very excited that the town of Davidson recognized the importance of this facility and understands it will be a tremendous compliment to the community.” Dr. Ray said. “This hospital and the highly-professional staff in Davidson will create a peaceful, healing environment for those patients who deserve the very best in behavioral healthcare.”

The new site is close to several CHS facilities in the north Mecklenburg and Lake Norman area, including Huntersville and Cornelius. The site provides easy access to I-77 and I-85 via Hwy. 73, and will allow CHS to provide a continuum of care in conjunction with its other facilities.

The new hospital will serve a broad range of patients who suffer from chronic mental health disorders or have more acute, episodic needs such as psychotic, mood or anxiety disorders.  It also will offer outpatient behavioral health services in a separate, dedicated building specifically designed for outpatient care and therapy.

As stated in the original Certificate of Need application approved by the N.C. Division of Health Service Regulation (NCDHSR), the 66 beds will be a transfer of inpatient psychiatric beds from Broughton Hospital in Morganton (Burke County). Transfers of psychiatric beds are occurring in other communities across the state pursuant to a state policy encouraging the transfer of beds from state psychiatric hospitals to community facilities.

CHS will ask the NCDHSR for approval to move the site to Davidson from the previous location in Huntersville, N.C.  Pending state approval of the request, site preparation and construction could begin this summer, with completion in the second half of 2013.  A zoning request for the original site planned in Huntersville was not approved by the Huntersville Board of Commissioners. The Davidson site does not require re-zoning.

FAQ – Carolinas HealthCare Behavioral Health Hospital

1.  What has been proposed for a behavioral health facility in Davidson?

Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) plans to build a 66-bed behavioral health hospital on Hwy. 73, about a quarter-mile east of Ramah Church Road.

2.  Why is CHS building a behavioral health hospital?

The new hospital will help us address an urgent, unmet need in a facility designed exclusively for patients who may be experiencing difficult personal situations.  The project is in keeping with the CHS mission of providing services to improve the health and wellness of the community.

CMC-Randolph, the existing behavioral health hospital in Charlotte, has 66 beds and is operating at 110 percent of capacity, so the need for additional beds in Mecklenburg County is clear.

A state-of-the-art behavioral health hospital will provide the very best care for patients and families who have immediate needs.

3.  What must happen before construction can begin?

The NC Division of Health Service Regulation (NCDHSR) has approved the facility but the original location was to be in Huntersville.  CHS will ask the NCDHSR for approval to move the site to Davidson from the previous location in Huntersville.

4.  When might construction start?

The NCDHSR has up to 75 days to render its decision, which means it could come by mid-July.  If the state approves the new location, site preparation could begin by late July, with completion of the facility scheduled in the second half of 2013.


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David Boraks is the founder and editor of Davidson News LLC, which started in 2006 as a neighborhood blog and evolved into a regional community news network. He is a print, magazine, web and radio journalist, with experience in every nook and cranny of the news world, covering everything from local news to Fortune 100 companies to technology to Asia. He lives on South Street in Davidson, in a house that was at the center of a 1914 murder case. Ask him and he'll tell you that story.

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9 Responses to “Carolinas HealthCare to build psych hospital on NC 73”

  1. Rusty Knox says:

    It really puzzles me why we would or should try to bring a “business” to town that will generate no tax base and potentially limit and restrict any future or futher development in the failed Davidson East project. We have the potential to take Davidson East make it a campus of business that would pay local taxes, employ a broader base of individuals and bring a much more positive spotlight on Davidson in future.

    Maybe I’m missing something. We have a failing cable company that continues to bleed the town’s budget dry each year (and will ALWAYS continue to do so), we have had to cut town services and employees jobs in order to subsidize the cable company’s continued deficiency and yet we bring a project here that has been voted down by the Huntersville voters (I would say that there are just as many residential home owners as close to the site at Davidson East as there are in Huntersville and it will be located across the street from a park where our kids play) and a project that generates no tax base.

    Our focus and the focus for our leadership should be on bringing businesses to town that generate a tax base. Davidson East is not a black eye on the town, MI Connection is, the Red Line could be. Bringing CHC’s mental health hospital to Davidson East, is a bandaid over a black eye. Remember why you all were elected, to better the Town of Davidson and serve the citizens to the best of your ability.

  2. Brunson Russum says:

    Great job Davidson! This is a much needed facility in our region and the Davidson East property is the perfect location. The hospital could be the genesis of a new high-tech healthcare campus right here in Davidson.

    The CHS property may be tax-exempt, but the development that will inevitably follow is certain to bolster Davidson’s commercial tax base. The new hospital is exactly the type of facility that will draw more high-tech healthcare companies, which will in turn bring more high-paying healthcare jobs.

    It is my hope that CommunityOne Bank will come to understand that not only is the new zoning economically viable, but that the town is a truly supportive partner in the appropriate development of their land.

    Thank you mayor Woods for actively pursuing CHS. Thank you to the planning department and all who helped establish the correct zoning for this property.

  3. Robert Maier says:

    I think it is great that a mental health facility is being built in Davidson, but once again, a huge chunk of Davidson land is off the tax rolls– and the financial effects are shrugged off by the administration.

    Doesn’t anyone notice the horrible condition of Jetton Street and Spring Street extended? How about our ugly, dark-sky unfriendly street lighting, the lack of benches or shelters at bus stops, and the dangerous crosswalks? Not to mention $60 million debt for MI connection. Now we have to take care of fire and police and road maintenance for the hospital system that pays its CEO in the millions, but apparently can’t spare a dime for Davidson. Are we so flush with money?

    The medical office building will be owned by CHS, so none of the shrinks in residence will pay commercial property taxes either. It’s hard to imagine what’s next.

    In any case, it’s comforting to know that the town administrators are so confident that residential property taxes will fund the Town’s necessities into the future, but it would be nice to double check the numbers, or hear a little more confidence from our fearless leaders.

  4. Cary Johnston says:

    Congratulations Mayor Woods and Davidson Town Board! There is such a need for mental health facilities in the north end of the county, and I’m proud that our town did not turn the hospital down. Both Davidson College and The Pines make contributions in lieu of taxes. Perhaps the hospital will do the same. However, the development which always accompanies health facilities will add significantly to our tax base and is worth having with or without contributions.

  5. Mark Ippolito says:

    Another classic example of acting first and thinking later. John Woods and the rest need political capital to distract from the MI-Connection disaster, and this appears to be their solution. They dismiss any attempt at financial impact assessment (see MI-Connection) prior to offering up land (that they are being sued over) for a project that no Davidson resident has been publicly apprised of prior to yesterday’s press conference. Has it been lost on anyone that this land is adjacent to a park where our children play baseball and soccer? An inpatient mental health facility does in fact have acutely psychotic patients among other critically ill mental health patients. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable placing it there?

    In addition, there is no mention of the traffic impact. Anyone who has attempted to commute in that direction from Davidson will attest that the two lanes are already at their maximum capacity. I encourage Mayor Woods and the rest of Davidson government and employees to commute to Poplar Tent during morning rush hour and then decide if this is a “perfect location.”

    Are we not going to have a financial and community impact assessment prior to making this unilateral decision? Expect a battle Mayor Woods. You are an elected official who works for your community and not vice versa.

  6. Wendi Amos says:

    We definitely need more facilities like this one in our area and across the state. I’m pleased that we are welcoming CHS to Davidson. I am also deeply concerned that it appears the basic types of due diligence questions are not being asked and investigated at the onset by those advising our Town leadership, whether it be this project or other major developments. We can’t foresee everything, but, a shot of curious enthusiasm, evidenced by the author of this piece, would go a long way towards proper planning & decision-making. Likewise, I would like to hear how transportation is included in the discussion of any new project, public transportation, especially … connectivity and accessibility.

  7. Rodney Graham says:

    It should be made clear that it was a private company – Community One Bank – not the Town of Davidson that reached an agreement to sell a portion of the Davidson East property to Carolinas Healthcare System. It should also be pointed out that the 23 acres in question represent just a fraction of the 170 acre site. Community One had to make an informed decision as to whether the presence of a Behavioral Health Hospital would negatively impact their ability to sell the remainder of the property. Obviously they concluded it would not.

    From the information I’ve been given, in most cases the patients at the hospital will not be a danger to others. If anything they might be a danger to themselves. But, let’s assume that they are dangerous to others. Given that assumption, would you rather have these people receiving professional care in a secure facility (CHS has zero experience of patients escaping their Charlotte facility, which is in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and harming others), or is it better that they remain in the community without treatment? There is clearly a need for this type of care, and while not all patients will come from Davidson, some will. I’d vote for providing care in a professional, secure environment.

    This hospital will spur ancillary development, although there are no guarantees of the amount or type of development. But visits to other similar facilities show that it will occur. What is certain is that this hospital will provide 155 new jobs in Davidson, requiring a variety of skills. For many reasons CHS wants to hire local employees as much as possible, and it is incumbent upon Town officials to work with CHS and the community to see that as many of these jobs as possible are filled by Davidson residents. These jobs are the real financial benefit to Davidson.

  8. Nickolas Gibietis says:

    Based on Mr. Graham’s post above I would take it as the Mayor and Commissioners deserve no credit or any congratulations. Nor do they deserve blame.

    I am still confused though how Mayor Woods can say Davidson is “solidly behind the project” when the posts above seem to contradict the move. When did the Mayor and Town Board know? Why was there no need for any public discussion in light of the debate and failure of it in Huntersville?

    For a leadership that makes companies jump through hoops to make small businesses like Rushco build, this is so inconsistent. The Mayor seems to want to take credit but none of the responsibility.

    For myself who will live next to this facility along with thousands others of residents. I cannot see how it positively impacts my home value and does not increase the costs in insurance due to the risk that will be added.

  9. David Boraks says:

    Mayor John Woods offers an extended comment on the Carolinas HealthCare announcement, including more discussion of what the hospital is and is not …

    Mayor Woods also invites residents to come to Tuesday’s Town Board meeting to hear a presentation from CHS about the plan.