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Residents attending an August 9 Borough Zoning Commission (BZC) public hearing on Church Hill Village, a 72-bed assisted-living complex proposed for a 3.97-acre site at 37 Church Hill Road (US Route 6), offered support and voiced opposition to the project, which would be the first facility of its type in the borough.
Teton Capital Company, LLC, of Old Greenwich is proposing a 12-building complex of interconnected structures for the sloping wooded site on the eastern corner of Church Hill and The Boulevard (see Google Map, above), which formerly was farmed and has remained undeveloped for decades. The facility would house frail elderly people generally over age 75 who require assistance with the activities of daily living, including some nursing care.
Last spring, at the developer’s request, the BZC created zoning regulations that would allow an assisted living complex in the borough, provided that the applicant meets the terms of those zoning rules.
About 20 people attended the BZC hearing held in the lower meeting room at Edmond Town Hall.
BZC Chairman Douglas Nelson, a Boulevard resident who lives within 1,000 feet of the development site, was formally notified by mail of the hearing, as were all the other property owners with holdings within 1,000 feet of the site.
Thus, as is the BZC’s practice, Mr Nelson asked the developer if he should recuse himself from sitting as a BZC member in review of the development application, to which the developer responded that Mr Nelson should remain as a BZC member. Mr Nelson concurred.
During the public comment section of the hearing, Dr J.W. Streett, of 6 The Boulevard, a veterinarian who owns residential property that abuts the development site, noted that he has spent much time and effort improving his property.
Dr Streett said that he has commented on the project to the developer, after which the developer made revisions to the plans. The changes that were made represent a major improvement, compared to an earlier version of the proposal, Dr Streett said. The project will include a vegetation buffer between his property and the site, he said. Dr Street told BZC members he endorses the project.
Ken Lerman of 55 Main Street told BZC members that he is a member of Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps, but added that his comments were his own and not made on behalf of that organization. Mr Lerman asked various questions about ambulance access to the site. Such facilities, which house elderly people with health problems, typically generate a large number of ambulance calls.
Laura Lerman, also of 55 Main Street, characterized the Church Hill Village project as “the best proposal that has been made for the site.” Over the years, various uses have been proposed for the vacant property, including a medical office complex. Local land use officials have said that medical offices would generate much more traffic than an assisted living facility.
Some people speaking at the hearing had clearly different views on the project.
John S. Madzula II of The Boulevard, said he does not consider the proposed complex to display a New England style of architecture, as is required by the applicable Village District zoning regulations.
“I would revisit the design and try to ‘soften’ it,” he said. The architecture proposed for the project does not match the architecture that exists in the borough, he said.
He said that architectural renderings for the project depict a complex that is not aesthetically pleasing.
Mr Madzula said that the project’s proposed driveway on Church Hill Road should be the complex’s primary entrance, not the driveway on The Boulevard, as has been proposed by the developer. The developer proposes that the Church Hill Road driveway be the access point for service vehicles.
His father, John S. Madzula of The Boulevard, also criticized the development proposal. The senior Mr Madzula is an architect and also chairman of the Borough Zoning Board of Appeals.
The elder Mr Madzula said that the amount of development that would occur on the site “is very excessive for the property.” He said he doubts that the planned 40 parking spaces would be adequate for the complex. “To me, The Boulevard is a residential street,” he said, adding that to position a driveway on The Boulevard for a commercial project is “absurd.”
Mr Madzula raised issues about the project’s architectural size, scale, proportion, and general design. The borough is becoming a “more urban” place, he observed. He urged that the BZC turn down the project, charging that it would damage residential property values.
Such a complex should instead be constructed in some less congested location, he said. Mr Madzula said the project would create more traffic in the area in asking the BZC to reject the application.
One resident asked whether the people who live at Church Hill Village would have facilities geared for their use as pedestrians.
William Donohue, a partner at Teton Capital, said that project planners would request that the state Department of Transportation create a crosswalk across Church Hill Road extending from its eastern corner with The Boulevard. Church Hill Road at the western corner of that intersection already has a crosswalk. The busy four-way intersection, which also includes the main driveway for The Village at Lexington Gardens retail/office complex, is controlled by recently installed traffic signals.
Mr Nelson noted that the BZC’s architectural review of the Church Hill Village project for conformance with the Village District zoning regulations is still underway by architect Hugh Sullivan.
Church Hill Village would have buildings that enclose 66,960 square feet of space. Most buildings would be one-story tall. The Boulevard driveway would be located about 150 feet north of The Boulevard’s intersection with Church Hill Road; the Church Hill Road driveway would be situated 410 feet east of the intersection of Church Hill Road and The Boulevard.
If approved, the project would be completed and fully occupied with assisted-living residents by the end of 2019, according to the developer.
The applicant needs three approvals for the project from the BZC — a special zoning permit, a site development plan approval, and a Village District zoning certificate.
The BZC public hearing on Church Hill Village is scheduled to resume on September 13.