Assisted-living plan at synagogue site gets no blessing from neighbors
Published 3:45 am, Thursday, March 31, 2016
FAIRFIELD — A proposal to build an 83-unit assisted-living center on property where a Stratfield Road synagogue now stands got a less-than-positive reception at an informal meeting with neighbors Wednesday.
The meeting, hosted by the developer, Fairfield-based Senior Living Development, was held at Congregation Ahavath Achim, 1571 Stratfield Road. Should the project be approved — plans have not yet been submitted to the Town Plan and Zoning Commission — the synagogue would be demolished and the three-story facility erected.
Mark DePecol, CEO of SLD, was peppered with questions — and criticism— from neighbors during the gathering. They wanted to know why the synagogue property was selected for an assisted-living center when there are several other nursing homes nearby, how it would benefit the neighborhood and what impact it would have on traffic.
DePecol said he feels there would be several benefits from the assisted-living facility, the first being it provides care for the community’s elderly. It also, he said, would provide tax revenue, which the synagogue does not. The Stratfield Road property, nearby Owen Fish Park, is currently assessed at approximately $4 million.
About half of the units would be for residents in assisted-living units, with the other half would be memory care accommodations for those with dementia.
Another assisted-living facility, the town’s first, was approved last December for property behind Carolton Convalescent Home on Mill Plain Road, and a second application for one on Mill Hill Terrace is awaiting a vote by the TPZ.
DePecol said an assisted-living facility is a permitted use for the Stratfield Road site, provided a special exception permit is secured. Because Stratfield Road is a state road, a permit would also be required from the State Traffic Commission.
Other residents voiced concerns that with a 24/7 operation, there would be “light pollution” from the property, with one saying it would appear to be daylight all day long and affect how people living near the facility react. DePecol said the lighting would actually be what is known as “dark sky” lighting, with lighting fixtures pointed toward the ground.
While SLD would construct the center, it would then be sold to Sunrise Senior Living, a company that operates assisted-living facilities around the nation. DePecol said his firm has a contract to buy the synagogue property.
Former Selectman Sheila Marmion asked what could be built at the site, if the special permit were not approved.
“If we’re denied, it would go up for sale, I presume,” DePecol said. He said options include a school or perhaps affordable housing.
“That’s something we need to keep in mind,” Marmion said.
Neighbors successfully opposed a proposal to build a Walgreen’s pharmacy at the site of the former Stratfield Market, a short distance south on Stratfield Road. Later plans for a day-care center at the property fell through, and the building remains empty.
Holly Lanese said she has lived across the street from the Congregation Ahavath Achim for 40 years. “A lot of these people have lived here their whole lives,” Lanese said. “It’s very stressed in the area.”