Editor,

On behalf of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, with 264 business members in the town of Huntersville representing 862 businesses in the Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, and the greater Lake Norman region, we would like to take this opportunity to again underscore our continued and strong support for the proposed behavioral health hospital to be located in Huntersville.

The town of Huntersville has experienced tremendous growth in the last 20 years, increasing from 3,000 residents in 1990 to nearly 50,000 people in 2010. With that growth comes a greater need for quality mental health services for all of our citizens, and that need will only grow larger as the populations of Huntersville and surrounding areas increase. The hospital has been unjustly portrayed by some as having a negative influence on the area.

Hospitals traditionally have proven to have positive effects on neighborhoods and planned development, particularly when development plans are adjusted to conform to established zoning guidelines, as is the case here.

The Chamber and our local businesses know from experience that Carolinas HealthCare System has proven to be a good neighbor. It is committed to building and operating a first-class facility that will bring critically needed services to our county. More than 900 CHS employees live in the two zip codes closest to the proposed hospital site, and 380 of them work in existing CHS facilities in Huntersville. The proposed behavioral health center would bring another 155 very good jobs to the area. CMC-Huntersville, the new free-standing emergency department that opens in April, brings an additional 55 jobs. We also know that a positive economic impact is experienced in areas when large construction projects are ongoing, as would be the case here for about 18 months.

Again, as a resident of our town and the president of our local chamber of commerce, I appreciate the diligence and study the Huntersville Planning Board, town staff and board of commissioners have given to this critical health care need. As I pointed out in my public comments a few weeks ago, studies show that one in four families have at least one family member with a behavioral health issue. On behalf of the 47,000 people living in Huntersville and the thousands more who would utilize this hospital from Statesville to Charlotte, our chamber respectfully asks the town board to support the proposed hospital.

– W.E. “Bill” Russell

President and CEO Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce

The above letter was delivered to Huntersville commissioners last week before they voted against the proposed 66-bed hospital.