KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — South High Senior Living could be one step closer to becoming a rehab facility after the Knox County Planning Commission approved the rezoning of the building.
The South Knoxville community has been raising concerns over where the South High residents would stay if the building became a rehab. Last month, residents learned that the building is in the process of being purchased by the McNabb Center.
The commission voted on Thursday to approve the rezoning of South High 11 to 2. The next step, the rezoning application moves to the Knoxville City Council for finalization.
If the property is rezoned, it will be possible for the McNabb Center to purchase South High.
Stephanie Sbordone has been a nurse at South High since September. She explained that in addition to the struggle of finding somewhere to move, for some residents, moving could be detrimental to their health.
“I have been a nurse almost 15 years and I do Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a lot of Alzheimer’s patients don’t do well with change. Consistency is key. So oftentimes, when they get taken out of a familiar environment and placed somewhere else, they have failure to thrive and they just don’t make it… not much recognition taken on that part either. [The commission] didn’t place a lot of interest in it. This is very disappointing. I don’t feel like the community was heard,” Sbordone said.
According to Sbordone, the community does not want the sale to happen and there was a petition with more than 1,000 signatures, which was not addressed in the commission meeting.
Additionally, she said that a factor that some commissioners based their vote on was incorrect. She explained that the commission was told by an attorney that South High had 29 residents when it has 43, placing South High at a 68.5 percent occupancy rather than under 50 percent as two commissioners believed.
If the residents have to leave, Sbordone said that they were told their moving expenses would be covered only if they stayed until the end.
However, many families are concerned because they want to make sure their loved ones have a place to go.
“That’s another problem for these residents. I mean their families and loved ones want to make sure that they have a place to go and there’s limited places within Knoxville too. So I mean to stay to the end might not be an option for some of these families and there and the residents. That live here,” she said.
Sbordone also said there are some opportunities for those that are interested in saving South High Senior Living.
“There’s a ‘Save South High’ page on Facebook if they’re interested, and a petition that’s still going around and it’s very active. If anybody wants to sign it that would be great. It goes to the City Council next May 16. I don’t know the time, but if the community wants to show up and voice their concerns, that would be amazing,” she said.
Knoxville City Council meetings start at 6 p.m. and are held in the Main Assembly Room of the City-County Building at 400 Main Street unless otherwise posted.