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An architect's rendering of the proposed senior housing. (Courtesy of Home, Inc.)

An architect's rendering of the proposed senior housing. (Courtesy of Home, Inc.)

Planning Commission — Varying views on senior apartments

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Around 40 people attended Planning Commission’s Monday, Nov. 12, meeting and public hearing, most there in a show of support for the project, with 15 of the 18 people who spoke expressing favor of the senior apartments.

Those supporting the project highlighted the need for affordable senior rentals in the village and praised Home, Inc.’s efforts to meet those needs. Those opposed mainly focused on the impact the building’s large size (at 56,000 square feet) might have on the neighborhood, citing traffic, parking and flooding concerns.

Suzanne Patterson said that as an older person she looked forward to having a place to live “with those like myself.”

“I hope you will resolve all of the deviations [from the zoning code] and finally give us this great asset to our community,” Patterson said.

But Joan Ackerman said the project goes against what is appropriate for the village, calling the building — a four-story structure that is 56-feet tall — a “behemoth” located “in a residential neighborhood where it doesn’t belong.”

Planning Commission is in the midst of weighing Home, Inc.’s request for Planned Unit Development, or PUD, zoning for the apartments, since the proposed density of units, building height and number of stories exceed the limits established in the Village’s zoning districts.

Home, Inc. is hoping to acquire zoning approval before a Feb. 21 deadline to apply for low income housing tax credit financing, which Home, Inc. has stated is necessary for the project to move ahead.

The comments from citizens followed presentations by St. Mary Development Corporation and Home, Inc., which are partnering on the project.

After the comments, Planning Commission members discussed whether or not Home, Inc. qualifies for a PUD. In the end, the commission did not decide whether it will recommend that Village Council grant the PUD.

The commission plans to review a draft PUD recommendation to Council at its Dec. 10 regular meeting, which Council might consider on Dec. 17.

Planning Commission members in attendance were Frank Doden, Ted Donnell, AJ Williams and Council liason Marianne MacQueen.

From the floor, Kathryn Hitchcock said it was the right time for the project, as many seniors, such as herself, are looking to downsize from a larger house.

“When I leave [my house] it can be available later to a young family,” she said. 

Meanwhile, Amy Magnus said that the project will improve the community. 

“It will give a definite asset to the town in an area that has been a blank slate for a long time,” she said, referring to the site’s vacancy since the 2009 closure and subsequent razing of Wright State Community Physicians. 

And, addressing size concerns, Richard Lapedes noted that Antioch College’s North and South Hall are similar in height, calling those who built the structures less “fearful of change.”

“I believe this building is a keeper. They have done everything possible to soften it and to make it less homogenous,” he said.

Also airing their support of the project were former Friends Care board member Toni Dosik; Senior Center Executive Director Karen Wolford, Kineta Sanford of Home, Inc. (on behalf of her parents, Cindy and Greg Sanford); Home, Inc. Board Chair Chris Bongorno; Miami Township Trustee Mark Crockett; Cindy Kaufman; Joan Horn; Dorothy Smith; Catherine Roma; Andrée Bognar; and Linda Rudawski. 

Ackerman said she hopes Home, Inc. explores other ways to meet the need for affordable senior housing. She stated her preference for Home, Inc. and Greene Metropolitian Housing’s approach of scatterring their affordable houses throughout the village, instead of a single building that she said brings to mind the term “ghetto” because “we’re putting all of these people in one place.” “They deserve better than that,” Ackerman said of potential residents.

Laura Curliss, who lives on Livermore Street, countered a statement made earlier in the meeting that the project does not have a negative environmental impact by explaining how it will block out the night sky. 

“The sky is a natural feature,” she said.

Curliss said she worries the building’s massive size is being driven solely by the tax credit requirements. Previously, Home, Inc. has said that its tax credit application would be more competitive with 54 units. 

“I think this is too big, too much, for where it is,” Curliss said.

Neighbor Lauren Miller pointed to traffic and parking problems that may arise because of the limited number of parking spaces the preliminary site plan calls for. She is also concerned about fire safety with such a tall building.

Overall, Miller said, the building is too large for the location. Citing her own calculations about how many people might possibly live there, it comes to “an awful lot of people to put on 1.8 acres.” 

Additionally, two neighbors shared their reasons for opposing the project in letters to Planning Commission.

Steve Conn of East Marshall Street wrote that while the size and density do not concern him, he believes that family housing — rather than senior housing — should be the priority. The apartments will only be available for those 55 and older.

And Linda Chernick of West Herman Street  raised concerns about the traffic, density, need for and management of the project, writing it will “irrevocably alter” what has been a “quiet residential neighborhood.” 

Comments from Planning Commission during its review of the PUD and responses from Home, Inc. and St. Mary will be covered in next week’s News.

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