Jewish Home scales back proposed zoning amendments
The nursing center is no longer pushing to allow buildings in the R-3 zoning district to stand 60 feet high (instead of the current 40-foot limit). It is, however, still asking for denser development and lot coverage.
Austin Wolf, the Jewish Home's attorney, announced these revisions in his 15-minute rebuttal. His statements concluded the public hearing which began on June 22 but was suspended following a lengthy public comment period around 11 p.m. Most of the public remarks that night were against the amendments, but Wolf did not have time to respond.
He did on Tuesday night, but he began with two concessions. First, he dropped the building-height amendment and then he struck the word "hospitals" from the remaining two amendment points.
These changes would allow some R-3 buildings to cover 20 percent of a particular lot (instead of the 15 percent limit now) and to have total floor are equal to half of the lot's area (instead of the 30 percent limit now).
With the word "hospitals" gone, the zoning changes would apply only to "homes for the aged," "rest homes," "chronic and convalescent nursing homes and buildings," and "assisted living facilities."
Wolf argued that this wouldn't cause a "flood" of new health care or nursing-home developments in the R-3 -- or any other -- zoning district. The R-3 sector covers most of the Stratfield neighborhoods, pockets of the beach area, bits of Southport, and a roughly 150-acre swath surrounding lower Stillson Road.
Wolf then argued that the changes wouldn't allow two pending developments in the area to expand in size -- developer Robert Scinto's proposed building at 3160 Easton Turnpike, which would house a women's medical center, and the Surgery Center of Fairfield County, which has plans for a one-story building at 5545 Park Ave.
The Jewish Home presented a retooled redevelopment plan that would conform to its revised zoning amendment package. Instead of erecting six four-story houses on its Jefferson Street campus -- as it previously planned -- the center would construct nine 3-story houses. The nursing center wants to redevelop in order to create a more residential atmosphere with its facilities.
Attorney Joel Green, who's representing the 14-unit Stratfield Falls condominium complex near the Jewish Home, called the revisions a mix of "good and bad news."
On the one hand, he said, the removal of any height changes was significant.
"But that almost worsens the application as a function of planning," he added.
The revised application, he said, focuses even more exclusively on the Jewish home's redevelopment plans than had been the case before. The proposed amendments fail to consider the rest of the town's zoning needs, he said. As he did in late June, he asked the commission why the zoning changes should apply solely to the R-3 district.
"This just further focuses on a specific operator on a specific property," he said. "I urge you [commissioners] to avoid thinking of this as a special exception."
Ken Camarro, of Carroll Road, said the Jewish Home's new development plans are a "step backwards" from the six-house, four-story model that was presented two weeks ago. The previous plan, he said, was more in line with the state's desire to develop in denser pockets.
Wolf, in closing, said the Jewish Home's application is the "most important" one he's taken before the TPZ in more 50 years of work.
"I don't normally do this," he said. "But this is the most meaningful application I've taken before the commission."