The Town Plan and Zoning Commission (TPZ) on Tuesday night shot down the proposed zoning amendments by the Jewish Home for the Elderly in a 5-2 vote.

TPZ members Douglas Soutar and Donald D'Andrea voted in favor of the application.

The proposed amendments would have enabled the nursing center to redesign its facilities on Jefferson Street with a considerably denser footprint than is now allowed in the town's R-3 zoning district.

The Jewish home foresees tearing down its existing buildings and creating a sleeker, more residential living space for its residents. But it has yet to present the town with concrete redevelopment plans, which proved a sticking point during Tuesday's TPZ vote.

Before the vote, several TPZ members said that, while they were impressed with the Jewish Home's vision for a redesign -- which could consist of nine three-story houses -- they felt the proposal should come before the commission as a special exception application, coupled either with a proposed zoning amendment or a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).

But simply changing the R-3 regulations with no fleshed-out redevelopment plans would be asking too much, the TPZ members said. It might, for example, open the door for unforeseeable developments in the R-3 district -- a concern shared by residents of the area.

TPZ Vice Chairman Bryan LeClerc said the "breadth" of the Jewish home's proposed amendment concerned him. He likened the proposal to "trying to kill ants with a sledgehammer."

"This is what variances are for," he added.

TPZ Chairman Seth Baratz said, "We understand why we'd want to enable [these changes for] this property, but we're not sure we'd want to enable [them] for the whole district."

"I can't support an amendment to our regulations because one landowner, as wonderful as they may be, thinks they need to change the regulations in order to carry out a proposed reconstruction," said TPZ member Matthew Wagner.

The Jewish home's proposed changes would have allowed it -- and other nursing home-type facilities in the R-3 district -- to cover 20 percent of their lots instead of 15 percent, and to have total floor area equal to half of the lot's area instead of the current 30 percent limit.

The original application also pushed for allowing these facilities to stand 60 feet high, instead of the current ceiling of 40 feet, but this component was dropped after strong opposition from residents. At the same time, the Jewish home dropped the word "hospital" from the types of facility which the amendments would have applied to.

Editor's note: Pick up a copy of Friday's Fairfield Citizen for the full story.