Developer looks to build assisted-living facility at 211 Danbury Road

Fairfield-based commercial real estate developer Senior Living Development (SLD) is looking to build an assisted-living and memory care facility at 211 Danbury, the former site of Young’s Nurseries.

SLD is in the preliminary agreement-making stages with Young’s to develop a three-story, 80,000-square-foot facility on a 3.58-acre property.

The front portion of the property is zoned for general business and the rear is a residential zone. Assisted-living facilities are special permitted use in both zone types.

At the Planning and Zoning Commission’s July 25 meeting, SLD management presented the company’s plan and requested amendments to Wilton’s assisted-living facility regulations concerning unit density, building height and the affordable housing requirement.

“Wilton’s a great market for this type of facility. There’s still a need in the community and operators recognize [it],” said Craig Flaherty, principal and senior engineer at Redniss & Mead, Inc. and SLD’s planner.

Flaherty said 211 Danbury Road seems like “the right type” of site to redevelop for an assisted-living facility, but “the zoning doesn’t quite get to the density that would be needed to support it.”

“Services and common areas — that’s really where assisted-living has evolved to over the last 10 to 20 years. Folks, when comparing facilities, really expect quality of life,” said Flaherty.

“A lifestyle [with] a lot of community spaces and extra services,” he said, “so it’s not just about getting a room — it’s about engaging.”

To support all that, Flaherty said, “these facilities have to be bigger in mass.”

SLD is proposing 90 units — double the amount allowed under current regulations. It is also proposing to offer 10% affordable housing at the facility. Regulations mandate 20%.

Mark De Pecol, SLD managing member, said there’s a “big demand” for assisted-living facilities, where the average resident is 85 years old and the average stay is two years.

De Pecol said SLD believes the Young’s property would be “a perfect place” for a facility and that it would come with “very little traffic” since “99% of the residents don’t have cars.”

Is there a need?

Planning commissioners questioned whether Wilton needs another assisted-living facility. The town already has two — The Greens at Cannondale and Brookdale Wilton.

“I’m curious as to the statement that there’s a lot of need for them in Wilton,” said commissioner Joe Fiteni. “For this kind of facility, there are a lot of openings. At Brookdale, there has been for a long time.”

Commissioner Doris Knapp also questioned the need for more assisted-living facilities.

“Each town — New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport, Ridgefield — they’re all building assisted-living units,” said Knapp. “Where are they going to get the people who can afford to live there and the amount of people needed to fill these units?”

SLD specializes in assisted-living facilities in Connecticut, “primarily in Fairfield County,” said De Pecol. According to the company’s website, SLD has projects underway in New Haven, Greenwich and Westport, and is pursuing an 83-unit assisted-living and memory service facility in Fairfield, a 90-unit facility in Norwalk and a 105-unit facility in Darien.

De Pecol said the providers, who buy and operate the properties after they're developed, “do extensive research in the market.”

“We’re doing one in Fairfield right now and two have recently got approved, and it still doesn’t fill the market,” said De Pecol.

“The providers we deal with are usually the top five in the country, and they do have an attraction just like a hotel,” he said. “They’re very upscale and they do have excellent service, but there is absolutely a demand. I wouldn’t be in this business if there wasn’t.”

Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Sally Poundstone said the proposal will be addressed again in the fall. Before meeting with the commission again, attorney Casey Healy said, he and his clients will reach out to neighbors on Orems Lane to get their thoughts.

The next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12, 7:15 p.m., in Room A of the town hall annex.

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