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FCPG unofficially backs wellness center plans

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The presentation of plans for the Fallbrook Regional Health District's Community Health and Wellness Center were presented to the Fallbrook Community Planning Group at its July 18 meeting, and although the presentation was a non-voting item the planning group was unofficially supportive of the plans.

“We all really liked it a lot,” said Fallbrook Community Planning Group Chair Eileen Delaney.

Delaney noted that the planned design of the wellness center had modern features but still matched Fallbrook’s rural character. “It’s beautiful,” she said.

The 4.8-acre parcel in the 1600 block of East Mission Road had been the site of St. Stephen, which was a Lutheran church affiliated with the Wisconsin Synod. The Fallbrook Regional Health District purchased the property in 2017, and no St. Stephen church activity has occurred since 2018 although elementary school education continued until early 2020.

The land has RR Rural Residential zoning and a VR-2 Village Residential land use designation. Prior to the construction of St. Stephen, the county’s Planning Commission issued a Major Use Permit in March 1977 which allowed for the operation of a private elementary school as well as a church. The health district filed an application to change the use to a health and wellness center in June 2019, although prior to the application two community meetings were held in early 2018 to evaluate potential community needs that the health and wellness center could accommodate and those activities were incorporated into the application.

The FCPG reviewed that application in September 2019 and voted 12-0 to recommend approval while adding the recommendation that access driveways to the site be maintained in the same configuration and that any directions provided recommend a specific traffic route through Gum Tree Lane and onto East Mission Road, and the healthcare district incorporated those requests.

The Planning Commission approved the Major Use Permit modification in October 2021, although the declaration of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak allowed the site to be used as an emergency interim center for coronavirus exposure testing and vaccination prior to that.

The revised Major Use Permit allows health and wellness education seminars, walking paths, community gardens, health screening and testing, telemedicine clinic operations, summer fitness camps, support group meetings, nutrition-oriented cooking classes, blood donation drives, financial literacy classes, community meetings, and non-profit fundraising events and partnerships.

Although no major changes to the structures are planned, some minor interior remodeling is planned to accommodate equipment for health seminars and similar classes. The education building has classrooms which will be utilized for cooking classes as well as health seminars and similar uses. The sanctuary and community hall buildings will be used for meetings and support groups.

In addition to being used for outdoor activities, the sports field will also be an overflow parking area for fundraising events. The existing residence will not be occupied on an overnight basis but will instead be used for storage and for meetings associated with the health and wellness center.

The health district anticipates no more than 50 individuals including staff members for weekday operations and no more than 40 individuals for evening support group meetings. The weekday activities will occur between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. with a break from 4 to 5 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic, and weekend events will occur between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. but also with a break from 4 to 5 p.m. Any amplified speakers are required to be indoors.

FRHD Chief Administrative Officer Rachel Mason presented the preliminary remodeling plans to the community planning group. “These are just conceptual. These are not final plans,” she said.

Mason explained that input from the community will be incorporated into the final plans.

The chapel building and the fellowship hall are the primary structures planned for remodeling. Mason noted that landscaping changes, including a walking path around the property, are also planned. Improvements to the outside of the building will reduce glare.

The parking lot will retain its 61-space capacity as well as its circulation system. “It restructures parking a little bit,” Mason said.

The chapel will be turned into a multi-purpose room. The remodeling will also provide space for separate restrooms between the former chapel and the former fellowship hall.

An industrial-level kitchen will allow catering on-site for special events as well as for the setup of cooking demonstrations. “The idea is to expand the kitchen,” Mason said. “It’s meant to be really demonstration and community resources.”

Mason noted that the healthcare district is using a San Diego County architectural firm. “They were able to capture the local feel,” she said. “We definitely took to heart what Fallbrook wanted.”

Although the Major Use Permit has been granted, building and other ministerial permits will be required. The healthcare district hopes to complete the permitting process by the end of calendar year 2022 and begin construction in spring 2023.


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