2012-02-03 / Opinion

Be fair to Plant Home

EDITORIAL

“This home is founded on my sincere belief that those who have lived honest, industrious lives and are without means or friends to take care for them, have earned the right to be cared for. Only through the labor and expenditures of others is it possible.” — Thomas Plant, 1917

For 95 years, the Plant Home on Washington Street in Bath has fulfilled Thomas Plant’s mission statement.

A symbol of the depth of “people helping people” spirit that infuses Bath’s heritage, the Plant Home provides a source of pride and cohesion for the city. It also epitomizes an elder care system that — by emphasizing compassion, common sense and community over pure profit — has sustained itself for generations without reliance on government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Without question, the Plant Home makes Bath better. Now it’s time for Bath’s leaders to step forward and allow the Plant Home to undertake a project that will ensure its viability as a community asset into the foreseeable future.

In March 2009, Plant Home executive director Don Capoldo announced expansion plans designed to fortify the Plant Home’s endowment and make it “one of the premier campuses in Maine.”

Since then, Plant Home officials have navigated through a maelstrom of state and — mostly — municipal requirements to push the project to what should be the brink of groundbreaking. They’ve met the contract rezoning stipulations originally presented to them; incorporated public access provisions into the proposal; and altered blueprints to account for reasonable concerns expressed by neighbors.

When asked to adapt, the Plant Home’s representatives have done so, rather than retreating and resorting to options — selling the land to developers who lack local roots, for example — with far more odious consequences for neighbors and the city as a whole.

Reflecting its historical connection to Bath, the Plant Home has been a model citizen and good neighbor throughout this process. Its board and staff have collaborated with city officials to come up with a project that will extend the life of a local institution and allow more Bath residents to age with dignity in their hometown — while minimizing negative impacts associated with construction of this scale.

At each step in the approval process requiring a vote, the proposal gained full support from the Bath Planning Board and Bath City Council.

Nevertheless, as Plant Home officials prepare to once again take their case to the Planning Board for a workshop on Tuesday, a project with significant social, economic, and historical merit languishes, awaiting decisive action from city leaders.

In addition to feeding a perception that Bath city government throws unnecessary hurdles in the path of local development efforts, the lengthy delays and bureaucratic switchbacks that the Plant Home has encountered drove up project costs and strained the nonprofit organization’s endowment.

It’s time for Bath’s leaders, who have already acknowledged the worthiness of the Plant Home expansion, to sort through the bedeviling details and let it move forward.

letters@timesrecord.com

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