VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – This is a story nine years in the making, and it is one that will no longer have Virginia Beach taxpayers on the hook.
You’ve watched the Vanguard Landing project for people with intellectual disabilities play out. Now, there’s a new boost in getting things going, thanks to Sentara Healthcare.
Virginia Beach wanted out of its relationship with Vanguard Landing, so Sentara Healthcare approached the city and said it would pay what Vanguard owed the city, which was $1.2 million.
Apparently, Sentara saw purpose in this project.
The non-profit wants to build what it calls an inclusive community for those with intellectual disabilities on a 75-acre site off Princess Anne Road.
Two weeks ago, we first reported Sentara Healthcare would be joining forces with Vanguard Landing to move the project forward.
And with a unanimous 8-0 vote of the Virginia Beach Development Authority, it allowed the city to cut ties with Vanguard Landing, which will now be working with Sentara Healthcare for what could be a $40 million housing community for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Our interest is to work not just with Vanguard Landing, but the community,” said Sentara Healthcare executive vice president Aubrey Layne, “and I appreciate many of the comments made today, and some of them are our concerns too.”
Those comments, like ones made by past president of the Arc of Virginia, Kim Goodloe. Her twin sons have intellectual disabilities.
“Vanguard Landing is building restaurants in the community, a social center in the community, a farmers’ market in the community, so what does that say about that community? It says all those people will stay within that segregated community,” Goodloe said.
Goodloe called Vanguard Landing a segregated community, while Vanguard said it is an inclusive community with renderings showing what the cottages will look like.
“We will be working with, and I want to emphasize this, with all parties in the community,” Layne said, “and we are not just following the blueprint that has been laid out there.”
Layne recognizes different approaches serving those with intellectual disabilities and embraces it.
“We want a viable project,” Layne said, “one that is eligible for Medicaid reimbursement, one that the community supports, that’s what we will be working with.”
Also speaking out against Vanguard and a staff member of The Arc, Jesse Monroe, who is integrated in the community across the street from ODU.
“My own experience living on my own in the community, I feel like that is the best way for anyone to live,” Monroe said.
Said Goodloe: “We feel that people with disabilities should be housed in apartments, townhouses, their own homes, proportionate to the community.”
Monroe and Goodloe do not think taxpayer money should go to projects like Vanguard Landing.
“People living in this community need to have social lives outside Vanguard Landing,” Monroe said.
As he was leaving, Layne made it clear the path forward is through cooperation. He told this to members of The Arc of Virginia, including its president Grey Persons.
“There are a lot of smart people at Sentara, and I appreciate that you have left the door open to having conversations and working together,” Persons said.
Said Layne: “Well, we are not going to do it without community support, and hopefully we can get there.”
Late this afternoon, Vanguard Landing’s founder and Executive Director Debra Bond Dear texted 10 On Your Side this statement.
“We’re excited that Sentara has offered to partner with Vanguard Landing to help us create an inclusive and dynamic community. Their support underscores the importance of our vision and is so meaningful.”
Dear said that for her, it is personal.
“What is so special about this is that my late father, Thomas Bond, won the Promise Award from Sentara several years before he died,” Dear said. “He was the only volunteer for Sentara to ever be awarded the Promise Award which is usually for employees. This was for his work at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. We have a lot to celebrate and most of all persons with disabilities will have another good choice.”