Property owner Sadri Sohayegh hopes the Town Plan and Zoning Commission will consider lowering the age of her senior housing apartments to boost the spirits of the elderly people who live there.
In a public hearing earlier this month, Sohayegh, owner of 32 Senior Housing LLC, submitted an application to amend the zoning regulations to lower the age restriction on her apartments located at 256 Peck Lane from the current 62 years old to 55. She implored the board, believing such a change would bring new life to the building, improving residents’ spirits and decreasing the number of ambulance visits at the property. “The youngest resident is 75 and it seems people come here to die,” Sohayegh said. “Some people stay in their rooms all day, they barely come out to eat. If we could bring the age down to 55 younger people would mingle with the older residents and talk to them.” Sohayegh, who broke down during her presentation, said she loves and has great compassion for her tenants and just wants them to be happier. “They even call me at home and tell me their problems,” she said. Sohayegh’s husband, Michael, also spoke at the meeting, saying seniors 62 and older cannot afford any rent increases that may come from upgrading the property. Since purchasing the property last August for $2.8 million, the Sohayeghs have installed security cameras, made gardens and put on a new roof. They maintain the age restriction makes it difficult to fill vacancies, although they reported having just two empty apartments.
First Selectmen Jim Zeoli was the only one to speak at the public hearing, urging the TPZC to stick with the regulations that are in place. “When this property was built in 1998 it was to meet the need for age restricted housing in town. It was 62 then and it’s still 62,” he said. “You should have researched this purchase more thoroughly if it’s not what you thought.” Since Orange has one of the highest populations of residents over 62 in New Haven County, Zeoli maintains it is very important the town provide living arrangements for this age group and demographic.” Zeoli pointed out the building’s low vacancy rate and the fact that more developers are interested in building senior housing in town demonstrates the need for age restricted housing.
Addressing the Sohayeghs, TPZ commissioner Ozzie Parente said zoning changes are not property specific and would impact all similar housing facilities within the same zone in town. “A lot of thought and analyses went into our regulations and there would have to be a good reason to consider undoing all that work,” Parente said, adding the Sohayeghs had yet to present “compelling reasons” to change the regulations. The commission did agree to allow the Sohayeghs to come before the board again with an attorney at a later date.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent