Sierra Care at the Lake, a 24-hour congregate living care facility, is now under construction along Globe Drive in Springville. The 12-bed health facility is for people of any age, not just for seniors, according to Joel Vargas, its project coordinator.
“It’s for people who are mentally aware of who they are and where they are, but who are unable to take care of themselves,” Vargas said, adding that the new facility will be able to serve paraplegics and quadriplegics.
The building permits were issued last month and the project is currently under construction. Last week, concrete was poured for the foundation of the new building.
“We’re basically doing an addition, taking the existing 2,040 square feet and adding 2,412 square feet,” said Vargas. Plans call for the building’s colors to be earthtones.
“We’re looking at four months of construction,” he said, estimating the facility would be open by January, or as soon as the state issues licenses following an inspection of the completed facility.
Sierra Care plans to have a job fair to hire registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, a primary physician, one director of nursing, and a chef “familiar with preparing meals for these types of patients.”
The Costa Natalie Trust, based in Glendale, hired Vargas to find “a property with a scenic view” in Tulare County to open a health facility similar to the one it operates in Los Angeles. “When I found this property, I came out and met with the owner,” he said, adding that he approached Bill Whitlatch of The Whitlatch Group “since he initially had the listing.” By then, however, the property was a listing of Melson Realty, but Whitlatch still helped Vargas through the process. Since then, Vargas moved from Southern California to Visalia and now works part-time for The Whitlatch Group.
“We were looking for counties that have a need for these facilities,” said Vargas, who noted that the location “is centrally located between San Francisco and Los Angeles.” He added that county officials assisted by “helping us understand the county process.”
“We worked closely with the developer and their local realtor in securing the site and provided them guidance through the entitlement process,” said Tulare County Economic Development Manager Michael Washam.
“Specifically, they first came into the county with a proposed location that was zoned for agriculture and located in a farming area. This type of project is incompatible with farming activities and is not allowed in agricultural zoned areas. Instead of telling them it can’t be done, we offered our assistance in locating suitable areas for the project to be developed.
“They would come in with a potential location and we would review the opportunities and constraints for the site,” he continued. “They finally secured this beautiful location near Springville. The Economic Development Office helped with the application and guided them through the public hearing process to obtain the special use permit under which the facility will be built and operate.”
The Costa Natalie Trust purchased the property in late January for $700,000. Its new facility will be on the former site of Costa’s Twin Lakes Resort, which really “wasn’t a resort,” according to Vargas. “It was utilized for recreational fishing purposes. The former owner allowed overnight stays with small RVs and tents.”
The lake has bluegill, bass and catfish. Although zoned for ag purposes, the property only has a few trees, such as pomegranate, olive, orange and “two wild date trees,” Vargas said.
The trust is in the process of opening a similar site in Bakersfield. “That started first, but we kind of reached a standstill with the county,” said Vargas, citing delays in the public hearings stage. It should be noted, however, that the proposed and delayed Bakersfield site is in a historic district.
“The residents who currently live there are fighting it, but they don’t understand,” said Vargas. “They’re thinking it’s going to be a drug rehabilitation center or a place with people getting out of jail. Most of the people at this facility will never get out of bed.”
Another building of about the same size will be built “diagonally across the property,” said Vargas. Public hearings will likely begin in February for that project.