Residential segment of Baron's South seniors' complex gathers steam
Updated 11:03 am, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Taking a more active role in the review process of First Selectman Gordon Joseloff's proposed senior complex at the town-owned Baron's South property, Representative Town Meeting members expressed support Tuesday night for a planned residential campus at the site.
The meeting included members of the RTM's Planning and Zoning and Long-Range Planning committees and members of Joseloff's Baron's South Committee, a nine-member panel formed earlier this year by the first selectman to write a request-for-proposals from prospective developers of the complex. Joseloff did not attend the meeting.
BSC Co-Chairman Steve Daniels told the RTM representatives that visits by committee members to 14 senior residential communities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania had helped to guide their drafting of the RFP.
"We thought the only thing that makes sense on Baron's South is to have independent living facilities with services that will help people perpetuate their life," he said.
At the Baron's South complex, those services could encompass areas such as transportation, housekeeping and home health.
RTM members have stepped up their scrutiny of Joseloff's senior campus plans since rejecting in June a petition filed by resident Bart Shuldman and approximately 60 others that sought to overturn a zoning amendment approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission that allowed the project to advance.
BSC members on Tuesday said the residential center at Baron's South would comprise one and two-bedroom apartments. Joseloff's preliminary plan for the site called for 66 residential units, but Daniels said that total could rise to 100. All of the apartments would be leased, with at least 60 percent rented as "affordable" or below-market-rate units, as mandated by the text amendment approved by the P&Z.
Joseloff's senior campus plan also envisions a health-care facility that would offer short-term and long-term in-patient care to both Baron's South residents and non-residents. Several RTM members, however, raised the prospect of drafting an RFP that only addressed housing at Baron's South.
"I'd like to move it along as quickly as possible and get as much support from the community and also from the RTM," said Jonathan Cunitz, District 4. "I think if the RFP was simply limited just to the phase 1 [for housing], and forget about asking for any plans for the rehab and the full-care ... I think we're going to save many, many months, if not a year or more."
John McCarthy, District 9, also backed that proposal.
"I think decoupling the two phases makes a lot of sense," he said. "There can be more options for the town and potentially more bidders."
The BSC's RFP will still likely include guidelines for a health-care facility, Daniels told the Westport News. But he and other BSC members acknowledged that plans for that component of the senior complex are less advanced than the proposed residential center.
"If we do that, we're going to do it right," said BSC member Yvonne Senturia. "We want to be confident that we have a model that we think is right for Westport and fits in with what's happening in Connecticut. We're not there yet."
BSC members have targeted Oct. 1 as a deadline to finish the RFP and send the senior complex project out to bid. Developers' proposals would be due by Jan. 3, 2012, according to an RFP outline drafted by BSC members. Daniels estimated that construction of the senior campus would probably take two years, although a series of approvals from town bodies such as the P&Z would be needed before work could begin at Baron's South.
RTM members did not indicate when they would convene again to discuss the Baron South Committee's request-for-proposals, but several representatives indicated approval of the legislative body's new role in the review process.
"What has come to me is not answers to all the detailed questions yet, but much greater clarity on what the general shape of this will look like," said Velma Heller, District 9. "I'm anxious to see where we go."