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Baron's South senior housing plan delayed by 'complex' details of deal

Published 1:08 pm, Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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A memorandum of understanding between the town and Baron's South Senior Housing LLC was withdrawn from the agenda of Wednesday's Board of Selectmen.

The memorandum is one of the first significant steps toward securing approval for a senior living complex envisioned on the town-owned Baron's South property.

"The memorandum of understanding precedes the final lease and it is very detailed and very complex, and there are three or four points that are still being fleshed out," Selectman Avi Kaner said following the meeting. "These involve issues such as annual rent escalations and performance bonds to ensure project completion."

Kaner said the memorandum issues are "highly complex terms," and, although both sides have reached a "high level of agreement on the terms," it is a $60 million project and the town wants to make sure all details are taken care of.

"As in any project, for it to succeed, it needs a solid foundation," Kaner said.

The project proposed for Baron's South includes a 150-unit senior housing complex -- plus "memory-care units "designed for people who may have Alzheimer's disease, dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment -- planned on several acres of the 22.7-acre site bordered by Compo Road South, Imperial Avenue and Post Road East. The primary development on the project would be the Jonathan Rose Companies, which has a Stamford office.

According to the proposal, 30 percent of the rental units would be set aside for those whose income meets "affordable" eligibility standards, with 30 percent mid-range and 40 percent market rate.

Kaner added the town is still proceeding on related issues, such as communicating with senior citizens and town residents about the project. He said a presentation on Baron's South is planned at 6:30 p.m. April 2 at the Westport Center for Senior Activities for that purpose.

Project amenities are also being worked out. "There have been a number of meetings" on that issue, he said, adding there was a visit to a similar facility recently to see what's offered.

At a recent meeting, amenities at the Westport housing complex were discussed with Rachel Rangelov of Watermark Retirement Communities explaining what would be included in a community center attached to the residential complex.

Rangelov said there would be a salon, gym, swimming pool and a cafeteria that would serve breakfast and lunch. There would also be a room for exercising. "Amenities are an integral part of our operation," said Rangelov during that meeting.

The center would be open not only to residents of the seniors complex, but also to town residents and would be an annex to the Westport Senior Center, which is within walking distance.

Kaner, during Wednesday's meeting, asked that the item be placed on the April 9 selectmen's meeting agenda.