A proposed assisted-living campus at the Horstman Farm property got a step closer to reality Wednesday with the Town Board’s unanimous approval of a zoning change.
Baptist Health Nursing & Rehabilitation Center had sought to rezone the 48.5-acre property from suburban residential to planned development district to build a 126-unit assisted-living center, a 120-unit independent-living center, 36 independent-living cottages and 21 individual nursing home units. The $100 million project would be built in phases but must first go back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for site review, which Baptist Associate Administrator Tony Alotta said could happen as soon as next month.
The board made the decision following about 90 minutes of public comment for and against the zoning change. Many speakers said they supported Baptist Health in general but the project was too big for the area with its three-story buildings. They also objected to the inclusion of two commercial sites that will be developed in a future phase of the project.
“I would love to see it scaled down,” said Darin Jones of 49 Swaggertown Road. “Take a level off it, take a couple buildings away.”
Jones said there would be a lot of traffic coming to the site with the new residents and employees. He added that commercial space should not be included, especially when there are other sites in town such as near Walmart.
Paul Kenny of 40 Swaggertown Road agreed that the project was too intense and said he believed the project should be in a commercial area: “Three-story buildings are not compatible with residential areas.”
Bill Stevenson, who has lived on Horstman Drive for 40 years, said he worried about environmental issues, including storm water runoff.
“Now you’re going to disturb all that property. It’s going to go into the ground water,” he said. “It’s way too big.”
In addressing some of the concerns, Alotta said that the nursing home residents deserve to be in a residential area and Baptist would take care to have attractive architecture and peaked roofs. “We do want to blend into the neighborhood because this is going to be residents’ homes,” he said.
Also, Baptist officials had looked all over town for space and many of the sites have wetlands that would not make them suitable for development, according to Alotta. Other sites are too expensive to buy.
Lou Carol Comley of Glen Avenue said the town should not turn its back on the 450 permanent jobs to be created when fully built out and an opportunity to help the aging baby boomers. “I think people in the community that built this community and made it the way it is should be allowed to stay,” she said.
Baptist resident John Haffner agreed. “Where are you going to put these people?” he asked.
Supervisor Chris Koetzle called it one of the more difficult decisions in his two years of involvement in town government. He said the Horstman Farm property was looked at by a developer and found not to be suitable for single-family homes because of wetlands.
“In my mind, it seems like the next best option would be something like this,” he said.
Board member Mark Quinn said the height of the project and the commercial space are all fair game for the Planning and Zoning Commission to review and for more public comment. “There are many bites at the apple,” he said, adding that he hoped Baptist would hear the suggestions of neighbors.
Alotta said the organization would work closely with the residents.