More than 200 people got a detailed presentation Wednesday on the seniors residential complex planned on a section of the town-owned Baron's South property.
Selectman Avi Kaner, joined by representatives from the project's development and management companies, led the presentation at the Westport Center for Senior Activities outlining the scope of what now is being called, "The Winslow at Baron's South."
"The town is doing this not only for senior citizens now, but the senior citizens of the future," Kaner said.
He said the next step is for the Board of Selectmen to vote on a memorandum of understanding with the developers and managers, which is still being drafted.
"We are extremely, extremely close," he said, added that the agreement would be voted on before the end of the month.
The $60 million project is planned for a section of the 23-acre town property between the Post Road East, Compo Road South and Imperial Avenue, just south of the senior center on Imperial Avenue. Developers believe it can be completed within 44 months, or sooner.
The development will be linked to senior center, with access to a common annex building that will include a cafe, pool, gymnasium and common area.
The development is now envisioned with 149 units, including 32 half-units dubbed "Memory Care" units for those with cognitive problems, currently projected to lease for $8,362 a month.
The lowest-cost units are 39 "affordable" 600-square-foot, one-bedroom units that will lease at $1,084 monthly, followed by 15 "moderate" units of 675 square feet priced at $2,600 monthly.
Other options will include 23 700-square-foot units with one bedroom at $4,750, 18 units of 950 square feet and two bedrooms at $6,350, and up to eight "penthouse" units with two bedrooms and leasing for $7,475 monthly.
While the goal will be to give Westport residents priority consideration for the units, Caroline Vary, director of the Connecticut office of the Jonathan Rose Cos., the developer, said federal law will prohibit exclusion of outsiders in a rental-based development.
"Finally, after almost 15 years of planning and activity, we are really close to making this happen," said First Selectman Jim Marpe, who called the plans "an opportunity to find affordable, comfortable living in a familiar surroundings."
He also made note of "new acres of open space that will be developed in a way that all Westporters can use and enjoy it."
The revised plan for the project doesn't require potential residents to pay a fee to live there in addition to the rent. Assisted-living services will be made available through the Jewish Home for the Elderly in Fairfield. Residents will also have options for housekeeping services, on-site dining and other amenities.
"We're thinking of adding transportation," Kaner said, explaining that the buses used for local commuter runs could be used during the day to provide rides for seniors.
He explained that once his board approves the Memorandum of Understanding, a legal team will work to draw up a long document detailing the project. At the same time the proposal will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission, where it will need to receive a variety of approvals which include a change in the zoning law to allow construction.
Vary said her company is committed to creating compact designs for the development that are environmentally conscious. "We are a very unusual developer in that we like to preserve nature," she said.
Rachel Rangelov spoke on behalf of Watermark Retirement Communities, which will manage the complex once it is built.
"What I'm most excited about is our opportunity to enhance our fitness program," said Susan Pfister, director of the town's senior center, who explained that its facilities and equipment are inadequate. "We have to do something to meet the need of our fitness program here."
Barbara Butler, the town's director of human services, told the crowd that elected officials need to hear from people with an interest in the project. "If you're not there, they don't know what the town wants," she said. "They're voting in a vacuum."