The town is moving forward with the next step in possible development of a residential and health-care complex for seniors on the Baron's South property by formally soliciting bids from developers.

As was expected after the Board of Finance earlier this month indicated it would not oppose issuing a request-for-proposals for the project, the invitation to submit ideas for the development went out this week

The first phase of the development on the town-owned land, as outlined in the RFP, would consist of up to 100 one- and two-bedroom rental units, the majority of which would be classified as "affordable" under state income guidelines.

The second phase of the project -- not specifically addressed in the RFP -- would be a facility housing skilled nursing beds for short- and long-term care. Even though bids are not being sought for the health-care unit at this time, developers are being invited to submit ideas.

The RFP was developed by the Baron's South Committee, led by Steve Daniels and Marty Hauhuth, which researched the concept with people with expert in the fields of residential and health-care issues for older adults.

The document asks for responses no later than 4 p.m. March 30.

"It is a long-awaited first step that will help us address the housing needs of seniors, especially those on limited incomes, who have given so much to our community," First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, a prime proponent of the project, said in a statement Tuesday.

The Baron's South Committee will hold a forum on the proposals at 10 a.m. Jan. 11 in Town Hall's Room 201/201A.

The full request-for-proposals is available on the town website, www.westportct.gov.

Interested developers are told the project "should be planned, designed, constructed, and managed without financial contribution from the town."

And, the document adds, "Proposals must provide for a revenue stream and/or an initial capital payment to the town. Preference will be given to proposals that indicate the highest and most dependable revenue stream and/or initial capital payment while satisfying the Core Objectives."

The core objectives listed in the RFP include:

- "Provide opportunities for the community's seniors to live with the maximum level of independence, thereby allowing residents to age in place and offering residents who require little or no care the opportunity to live alongside residents who may require increasing levels of care.

- "Address a community need to increase the available inventory of below market rate housing and enhance the types of housing choices offered to Westport seniors."

The RFP said the town wants preference given to Westport residents, "to the extent allowed by law," for the residential units.

Developers are instructed to use "universal design so that residents may comfortably age in place. Residents must have access to optional health-related and supportive services including health and wellness services, personal care, home care, housekeeping, social activities and transportation."

The proposals also "must include a community gathering space, including a kitchen similar to those in local houses of worship suitable either initially or at a future time for meal preparation and service," the RFP states.

The documents says "preference will be given to proposals that provide for the care and maintenance of the remaining minimally developed acreage of Baron's South in a manner consistent with a passive public recreation area."

The second phase of the Baron's South project, as now envisioned, would be a plan to "meet a growing community need for skilled nursing beds for short-term rehabilitation and long-term care, including advanced dementia and hospice care."

Even though the RFP does not ask developers to submit formal plans for the health-care facility, those interested are invited to include their vision for both long-term care and short-term rehabilitation services. "The small house model should be considered," the RFP states.