Friday, April 19, 2024

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Committee Down to Two Developers for Baron’s South

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s Baron’s South Committee today narrowed down its three bidders to develop a senior housing complex to two.

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The Baron’s South Committee met in a late afternoon session at Town Hall. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

It eliminated Atria Senior Living for its too high rents and agreed to ask remaining bidders Jonathan Rose Companies and TransCon Builders to present the financial details of a project scaled down from 150 to 130 units.

All concurred that Atria’s rents of $8,366 for a two-bedroom, market rate unit, plus a mandatory $1,800 monthly charge for two meals per day and weekly housecleaning of all units, including affordable ones, were opposed to the planned facility’s mission.

“This is not what the town had in mind in donating the land,” said G. Kenneth Bernhard, committee member.  “This is a very high end facility only for affluent Westporters.”

The purpose of the planned housing facility on 22 acres of town-owned land, a key initiative of First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Second Selectwoman Shelly Kassen, is to allow seniors who have contributed much to the town to be able to age in place, not to be priced out.

“The rents are too high,” said Jo Fuchs Luscombe, committee member.

“It’s well beyond what I think would be acceptable,” agreed committee member the Rev. Edward Horne.

Along with the rents, the size of the proposed complex, 150 units, was another concern, one which left the committee asking the two remaining respondents to the RFP (request for proposals) to give them facts and figures on the feasibility of constructing a 130-unit facility and the income stream to the town.

Respondents were asked to address the economics of 130 independent units or 100 independent units with 32 units set aside for a separate memory care facility. They were also asked to present advantages and disadvantages of using tax credits or not.

From the audience, David McCarthy, senior project manager for Jonathan Rose, noted that tax credits, available in 4 or 9 percent, would make the project take longer.

Speaking from the audience, Kassen spoke against including memory care in Phase I and to address independent units only.

“If you want something that will win, keep it at the core,” Kassen said about getting Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Finance approvals.  “I know there is a need for memory care, but I just think this will kill the project.

“A lot of this is about psychology, and there is always that fear factor,” she added, noting that initial fears were that all the affordable units would go to non-Westporters. “Now with memory care, there will be the fear of people walking around disoriented in town.”

Jack Klinge, a member of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM), called including memory care in the project “a big trap.”

“That’s the Phase II,” he said. “The more variables you add, the bigger problems you have.”  .

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