Orange native Attorney Toni Marie Gelineau described her presentation to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission as “serendipitous” as she proposed a zone change to allow the construction of an assisted living and memory care facility on property that was once her family’s homestead known as “Cuzz Acres”. In a public hearing before the board, Gelinaeu spoke on behalf of the applicant, Senior Living Advisors, LLC, and property owner, Indian River Road LLC. Gelineau appealed to the commission to amend the Orange Zoning Regulations to add a definition for “Dwelling Unit, Senior Independent Living,” and to amend the Orange Zoning map and to changes the seven-acre property known as 231 Indian River Road-Lot 2 from Light Industrial (LI-2) to Senior Mixed Use District.
Citing the town’s aging population, Gelineau said Orange has a need for more independent and assisted senior housing and the Indian River, Marsh Hill and Prindle Road area would be the perfect spot to create such a zone. Close to the Post Road and highways and minutes away from dialysis facilities, medical offices and pharmacies, the area is already uniquely compatible to senior living, Gelineau pointed out. Maplewood at Orange, an assisted living and memory care facility is also located on Indian River Road.
Mark De Pecol, principle for Senior Living Advisors, presented the details about the assisted living and memory care facility they would propose for the site if the zone change is approved. Describing the type of assisted living homes Senior Living Advisors operates statewide, De Pecol said the “resort-like” facilities are always “beautiful and aesthetically pleasing,” with inviting grounds and gardens, elegant dining rooms and communal areas, wine bars and hallways, lighting and furniture specifically designed to meet the needs of seniors. The proposed building, located on seven acres, would be three floors and have 100 rooms, 20 of which would be designated for memory care. Admittedly pricey, the annual cost for what De Pecol describes as “gracious living” would be about $72,000. According to the company’s market findings, the average age of residents is 84 and they typically live in the facility for two and half years. “We’ve found there’s a tremendous need for assisted senior living in the Milford, Orange, Stratford, West Haven, Westville and Woodbridge communities,” he said. “If there wasn’t a need we wouldn’t be proposing this.”
According to De Pecol, benefits to the town would be significant, citing significant tax revenue with minimal impact on town services. Residents obviously would not have use for schools; little traffic is generated as residents rarely drive; “lights out” is early; and the property is quiet. Even ambulance and EMT visits are minimal, averaging about five visits a month and typically arriving without sirens and lights. In addition to the internal amenities and attractive exterior of the building, the company goes “overboard on gardens and landscaping,” he said. If approved, the project is slated for completion in 2020.
De Pecol said Senior Living Advisors is extremely proactive when building one of their facilities within a town and works diligently with residents and officials throughout the process to address concerns and minimize any issues. Indian River Road resident George Finley, who met with De Pecol prior to the public hearing, did have concerns to bring before the board. “Senior living is needed and wanted in Orange and this project is aesthetically pleasing to the neighborhood. If that’s all we were talking about here tonight I’d say approve it immediately,” he said. “What bothers me are the words ‘mixed use’ and the attempt to bring retail in under the false dressing of senior living.” Finley pointed out the nearby Post Road offers all the stores and conveniences a senior resident might need. He suggested limiting commercial use to professional services which would be closed on weekends when Post Road traffic is at its heaviest.
Commissioners talked briefly among themselves about whether a zone change permitting residential use in the area could lead to other housing applications – like affordable housing. They decided to leave the public hearing open to continue discussions at its January 2nd meeting.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent