GLENVILLE — A private developer hopes to build residential-style "memory care homes" on property off St. Anthony's Lane, formerly the site of the Woodlin Club.
David Karasz, of Glenville, presented conceptual plans for four buildings on the 11-acre property to the town Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, though the project would apparently require a boundary line adjustment with the adjoining Indian Kill Nature Preserve. That would require approval from the state Legislature.
Each of the memory care homes would have bedrooms for six adult clients with impairments like Alzheimer's disease. A staff member would occupy the seventh room, and there would be parking for up to eight vehicles at each home. Though it's unlikely the residents would drive vehicles, state law requires municipalities to treat such facilities as single-family residences during zoning reviews, for the purpose of parking requirements. The land is zoned for residential development.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he'll discuss the application with the Town Board at a workshop Wednesday night in Town Hall, but the main concern he believes the town can address is the number of parking required in front of each building.
"You're looking at the fact that the state requires us to treat them like single-family homes, but no single-family home I know has eight parking spaces," Koetzle said. "Other than that, they're allowed by state law, and local zoning doesn't apply, but they do have to fit into a single-family design, and I don't think this proposal does that."
Karasz, who owns four similar buildings — one each in Glenville and Charlton and two in Rexford — said they offer a good alternative to institutional care for people with cognitive issues, and the residents respond well to being in a residential setting.
"In a home environment, you can see them light up. It's not an institution," Karasz said after the meeting.
A state Health Department panel in 2015 estimated there were 380,000 cases of Alzheimer's disease in the state — a number that was expected to increase to 460,000 by 2025. Nationwide, 5.3 million people have the disease.
"The No. 1 risk factor for Alzheimer's is aging, and the baby boomers will be entering that age range over the next couple of decades," said Elizabeth Smith-Boivin, executive director of the Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern New York.
She said many patients will do well in a home-like setting because it's familiar, though institutions are also needed to care for people with medical complications.
"I think it's wonderful if we have a variety of options, because one size doesn't fit all," Smith-Boivin said.
The proposal, if it moves forward, would be for the former site of the Woodlin Club, a private recreational facility that was popular for decades, but which closed in 2011. The property was bought by Terry Stewart, of Stillwater, during a Schenectady County tax foreclosure auction in 2014, but it has remained undeveloped, with a "for sale" sign posted on the property. Plans for multi-family and single-family development have been floated for the parcel but were never pursued.
Members of the Planning and Zoning Commission gave the idea generally favorable reviews.
"There's a need for it," Chairman Michael Carr said. "If they're allowed to do it, they're allowed to do it, and we need to make sure they do it right."
Staff would come and go daily from each building, and a van would deliver meals, but Karasz said the residents would not drive, so the only other traffic would be from visiting relatives and friends.
One potentially time-consuming hurdle is the need to swap land with Schenectady County, which owns the adjoining Indian Kill Nature Preserve. The preserve is parkland, so any swap or boundary adjustment will require approval from the state Legislature. Such "home rule" bills pass routinely, if they're supported by local state legislators, but there's no guarantee.
Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner said he was aware of the request and said the county Planning Department favors it because the county would get more land than it would give up and would gain ownership of private land on which one of the nature preserve's trails already runs.
"It's a long process," Gardner said of state legislative approval. "I'm not sure if it would get done this legislative session or not."
While the homes are licensed by the state Office of Childen and Family Services, Karasz said they would be entirely privately funded.