Support voiced for assisted living development

Two members of the Economic Development Commission voiced their support Oct. 24 for a developer with a track record for building assisted-living facilities — Senior Living Development Co. — which wants to convert the Young’s Nurseries property on Danbury Road into what would be Wilton’s third for-profit assisted living center.
The other two are The Greens at Cannondale and Brookdale Wilton. Wilton Commons and Wilton Commons Congregate are nonprofit senior housing facilities.
The facility is intended for older seniors who need assistance in their daily needs but not a full-care nursing home.
“It will bring a half-million dollars in tax revenue,” said Jennie Wong, a member of the EDC, in her speech before the Planning and Zoning Commission at the town hall annex. Wong also said the location for the project was perfect, with public sewer and water.
The residents and workers will also spend money in the local economy, supporting stores and restaurants, said Phil Lauria, another member of the EDC, who said he is also chairman of Wilton Commons and knows there is a long waiting list for units.
“This is a tremendous project. I hope you see this happening for our town,” Lauria said.
Wilton is generally underserved for assisted living facilities, according to Mark DePecol, a representative of the company, who spoke to the Planning and Zoning Commission at a previous meeting, on Oct. 10. He said the population is getting older.
The plan is for 90 housing units in an 8,000-square-foot building on a three-acre site. Ten percent of the units would be reserved as affordable housing units.
That is too congested for current zoning regulations, so the developer is seeking an amendment to tweak the regulations for assisted living facilities so the proposed project could fit on the three-acre space.
It was the second time commissioners were hearing about the plan — at the continued public hearing — and some were not satisfied with the details.
Commissioner Joe Fiteni said he’d still like to see a demographic study of other towns with growing senior populations to compare with.
Jeffrey Rutishauser, chairman of the Board of Finance, commented positively online after the story appeared on The Bulletin’s website. Such a facility “generates a lot of property tax revenue but contributes no children for the Town to educate at $20,000 annually per public school student,” he said. “If a rental apartment building was built on this land instead and a family with three children moved into an apartment, it would cost the Town $60,000 annually in the school system, plus municipal services for that single apartment.”
Because no apartment or condo would pay nearly that in property taxes, such a development would put the town on the losing end of a services-totax income equation.
The commission will take up the discussion again at its next meeting, Nov. 13. In the meantime, the Planning and Zoning staff report on the application indicates that lowering the setaside of affordable units from 20% to 10% seems contrary to Wilton’s historic endeavors to encourage affordable housing. However, representatives of the developer said the economics of the project would not work at that level, and the density would have to be increased.