Zoning commission concerned about Westport senior care facility proposal

Westport Rehabilitation Complex. Taken June 19, 2019 in Westport, CT.

Westport Rehabilitation Complex. Taken June 19, 2019 in Westport, CT.

Lynandro Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The Planning and Zoning Commission gave a tepid response in a pre-application review of a proposal to bring a senior care facility to 1 Burr Road.

Commissioners shared concerns at Thursday’s meeting about the height of the proposed five-story senior care facility, which is near two schools.

“I will not approve a building of this height,” Cathy Walsh, a commissioner, said, adding she wasn’t thrilled with the design.

She said it was great to do a nice project and upgrade the property, but a lot more work was needed before it received her support.

The proposal, filed by 1 Burr Road LLC, looks to transform the existing Westport Rehabilitation Complex into an assisted living, senior care facility.

“We believe it will be an improvement to the community not just for future occupants of the facility, but for neighboring properties’ owners as well,” Len Braman, attorney for the applicant, said at a meeting Thursday. “It will transform a site that many in the community would like to see improve.”

Plans to transform the aging, 120-bed nursing home complex have long been in the works. Last year, occupants of the facility were surprised when they learned of plans last minute to close the center at the end of 2019 and transform it into a high-end hotel.

But managers of the complex later ensured families the building would remain open for the remainder of the year, and community meetings would keep them informed moving forward.

Braman said changing the nursing home into a state-of-the-art senior care facility would allow for an improvement in privacy, and quality of living and care. More parking, including below building parking, was also proposed.

“The proposal you’re hearing is a result of extensive and productive discussions that we’ve had with p and z staff, with other town departments and with the members of the community,” he said, adding if the commission was in favor they would formally apply for a text amendment.

Commissioner Chip Stephens also disagreed with parts of the proposal.

“It’s just too tall,” he said.

Stephens said it was a noble idea but the property was in a traffic rich area and the height could create privacy issues for nearby buildings.

“I just think it’s too big for the place it’s put on, which is typical for what we’re seeing lately,” he said. “There’s not a lot of property in Westport, the only way to go is up, and I don’t think the general population would be in favor of that.”

In other business, the commission discussed a proposal to build a warehouse and distribution center at 10 Norden Place in East Norwalk. The property is also located close to Hiawatha Lane in Westport.

But some commissioners voiced displeasure they were not made aware of the proposal by Norwalk’s zoning commission.

“The commission needs to come to us officially and this commission needs to respond,” Walsh said.

The zoning commission plans to draft a letter with its concerns and discuss it at its work session on Nov. 19.