Eight months after hitting the "reset button" on the proposed Baron's South senior housing complex, the Board of Finance Monday night enthusiastically endorsed the revised proposal for development of the town-owned property between Compo Road South, Imperial Avenue and Post Road East.
Last year Jonathan Rose Cos., which has offices in Stamford and New Haven, submitted a bid to develop the property that was endorsed by the Baron's South Committee. But the proposal was abandoned after criticism from Board of Finance members, who felt the proposal did not bring enough value back to the town.
During a second round of bidding, a revised proposal by Jonathan Rose was selected from among three finalists that submitted a bid in response to a request for proposals (RFP) to the town. The Baron's South Committee unanimously selected the Rose plan in late May and finance board members Monday night lauded the work of the committee in refashioning aspects of the proposal.
"I commend the efforts that were put out by this committee," said finance board member John Pincavage. "I sat in on numerous meetings and I have to say they were professional, diligent, willing to listen, willing to learn, they were open-minded."
Features in the new Rose proposal include: 28 "memory-care units" designed for people who may have Alzheimer's disease, dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment; all affordable units would be one-bedroom apartments rented at $1,084 per month; market rate, one-bedroom apartments would be rented with fewer amenities at $2,200 per month and $4,750 per month with full-scale amenities; two-bedroom apartments would rent for $2,800 monthly with fewer amenities and $6,350 with a wider range; an opt-in $1,500 monthly expenditure for one meal a day and housekeeping.
"It's more attractive and appealing to a wider range of Westport residents," Pincavage said. "This is not basically a place where you're going to take some people who don't have a lot of resources and put them away. This is going to allow more people access to what I would consider a very attractive living arrangement."
Steve Daniels, co-chair of the Baron's South Committee, said the proposed senior complex should be a community that feels like a seamless extension of Westport.
"This isn't just an apartment building, it isn't just a country club," Daniels said. "It's a place where we want all people who have any inclination of being here as Westporters to feel that they're in the same community as they were before."
Rose's proposal will now be examined in more detail, with the committee and the developer working more closely on details before it is passed on to other town boards for review.
The complex could include up to 150 units, and the new proposal calls for 30 percent of the rental units to be set aside as affordable, with 30 percent mid-range and 40 percent market rate.
Among the details that need to be addressed is how much money will be returned to the town -- either as an upfront payment or through an ongoing program -- to compensate for relinquishing control of the 22.7-acre property, which the town acquired in January 1999.
In the RFP submitted to the town, Jonathan Rose states, "Our proposal provides significant revenue to the town of Westport, including an upfront payment of $5,000,000 and on ongoing annual PILOT of $625,000, which increases annually at the same rate as the mill rate, resulting in a 75-year Net Present Value of $19,668,876. We also present an optional Phase II, which could garner additional revenue to the town."
In 2004, the town built the Westport Center for Senior Activities on a portion of the Baron's South property, and Baron's South Committee Co-chairwoman Marty Hauhuth has said the committee and the developer need to decide how much synergy will exist between the center and the housing development.
The plan will eventually be submitted to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration, and finance board member Brian Stern said land-use officials should be brought into the loop as soon as possible to assure the project's success.
"My strong recommendation is to get the land-use bodies on the analysis train with us," Stern said.
Rose's proposal calls for development of up to 8 acres of the 22.7-acre property, and Stern said town officials should develop a vision for how to use the remainder of the property. Options include additional development or setting aside portions of the area as open space.