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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Meeting a Close Up of Planned Senior Complex

By James Lomuscio

A packed Baron’s South Committee meeting today discussed maintaining open space and banking land for future development, as well as amenities at the planned 150-unit senior housing complex.

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Today’s Baron’s South Committee meeting at Town Hall drew a packed crowd. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

Second Selectman Avi Kaner conducted the meeting at Town Hall, stressing that he and First Selectman Jim Marpe are “fully committed to moving this project forward.”

“We view this project as a partnership between the town and the developers, not just for now, but for the next 98 years,” said Kaner, adding that it would be a “Class A facility commensurate with the quality we have here in Westport.”

Representatives of the developers, Jonathan Rose Companies and The Freshwater Group, were in attendance.

Kaner noted that attorneys for the town and the developers Tuesday night hammered out a revised memorandum of understanding about the lease and financials for the senior complex, which the Board of Selectman expect to vote on next month. He urged public participation at the upcoming meeting.

The financial component of the understanding, he said, focuses on “protecting the town from unforeseen financial changes,” such as very high interest rates, over the 98-year lease “to protect the town and future residents, our children and grandchildren.”

Kaner also said that once approved, the memorandum of understanding for the complex, to be situated on eight acres of the town-owned, 22-acre parcel known as Baron’s South, would be contingent on approvals from town boards and commissions.

In addition to the eight acres, two acres are to be set aside for open space as a buffer for residents on Foxfire Lane. It would also offer walking trails, parking and outdoor exercise facilities to all town residents.

Robert Haroun, head of Westport-based SIR Development since 1993 and a recent addition to the Baron’s South Committee, noted that other parts of the 22 acres, ones along Post Road East and Imperial Avenue are being eyed for future development. One mentioned is a proposed school bus depot on the Post Road East side.

Since the latest memorandum of understanding stipulates developers maintain the open space from becoming overgrown, it was asked if the developers would bear the responsibility for maintaining open space considered for future development.

Don Bergmann, a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), said from the audience that the developer would maintain those properties until it was time to develop them. Kaner agreed, and then asked Bergmann “because of his passion on land use” to be on a Baron’s South Subcommittee with fellow RTM member Matt Mandell.

G. Kenneth Bernhard, Baron’s South Committee member, supported having the developers maintain undeveloped land “so it doesn’t revert to a jungle,” and that the town had the option to remove the requirement “if we change our mind” to develop the tracts.

In other matters, Freshwater representative Rachel Rangelov described the layout of the facility’s amenities that would be open to all Westport seniors, not only complex residents, and would be accessible from the Westport Center for Senior Activities.

They include: an e-Cafe, a separate gathering space with a fireplace, a room for dancing and an exercise room,“a state-of-the-art senior friendly system,” Rangelov said. There will also be a full-service, unisex salon for hair and nails, as well as a pool with a lap lane. A meditation garden is planned for outside.

“This is something we embrace, and the partnership with the Senior Center is very important to us,” Rangelov said.

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Posted 02/26/14 at 05:43 PM  Permalink



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