Letter: Approve senior-housing zoning
Published 10:55 am, Friday, September 5, 2014
The Human Services Commission and the Commission for Senior Services unanimously endorse Text Amendment #677 and urge the Planning & Zoning Commission to support the proposed provisions, which will facilitate the building of senior housing on town-owned land.
These modifications are the result of extensive work by two town administrations and the Baron's South Committee, many discussions, community input and economic realities which reflect the wishes of our citizens and the composition of the community. The amendment also is supported by all relevant housing and senior-related groups in town, as demonstrated at the commission's July 17 public hearing.
The changes outlined in the amendment reflect the need for more open space that everyone in town can enjoy, more amenities like the therapy pool for public use, wider pricing options which better mirror our community and a good financial return to the town that will ease the burden on all taxpayers. The need for more senior housing options is specified in the Town Plan and is consistent with current best practices that encourage seniors to stay in their home communities and age in place.
The change to affordability requirements creates a minimum of 20 percent affordable units and 20 percent moderate income units. Later projects could require more affordability, but this sets a floor and specifically includes a minimum of moderate cost units. This mixed income approach will be more attractive to prospective occupants of market rate units, and also serves an income group (moderate) that is currently underserved. The original number of affordable units will be about the same under the new plan, and thus approximately the same number of households will be served as initially projected.
In addition to the finite number of residents served by the affordable units, there will be significant benefits to the larger community. The change to accessory uses clarifies what might be built. The aquatherapy pool, which would be available to all Westport senior residents, would be one use. The key words of "customary to, and supportive of, the needs of seniors" will continue to define which amenities may be created. Many senior residential facilities have a small hair salon as a convenience to their residents, as well as small cafes which provide an informal social gathering spot for the residents of the facility, similar to the cafe at the library or in other places in town. Large retail stores would not fall into this category.
The need for more mixed-income senior housing is evidenced by numbers such as the 719 households in Westport that are at 80 percent of the state median Iicome and the 960 households at 120 percent of the area median income. This proposal would allow a mixture of income levels to continue to reside in town. There is currently little or no senior housing available to the moderate income group.
We urge the Planning and Zoning Commission to approve the proposed text amendment.
Lynn Goldberg, chairman
Westport Human Services Commission
Stan Nayer, chairman
Westport Commission for Senior Services