Senior Housing discussed at WPCA, steps taken
ORANGE-Plans for an approximate 125 unit senior housing complex on a section of the former Hine Farm inched forward this week as the Water Pollution Control Authority prepared conditions for a possible approval.
Members of the WPCA met for a little more than an hour last Thursday evening, and no action was taken concerning developer Douglas Anderson, of Branford's, bid to construct the complex south of the intersection of Routes 34 and 121 on a parcel of the farm that was established in 1636.
Anderson needs approval to construct sewers to the site. At a public hearing that attracted 250 residents last month the opinion was mixed. Many residents' spoke about a need for more senior housing, while others expressed a "Pandora's Box" concern that installing sewers would make the area of Route 34 vulnerable to large scale low-income housing projects that would drain town services.
However, during the deliberation members discussed several conditions that might be included as part of an approval. As part of the conditions the board wants Anderson to put in writing that his proposal would be age restricted, and he would be willing to pay for installing the sewers and for tapping into Derby's sewer system. After the meeting Anderson confirmed he would spend in excess of $1 million in an effort to ensure the taxpayers of Orange do not have to spend any money.
Also the commission sought to work with Derby to ensure that unattractive developments for both communities are fought together.
Chairman Robert Kleffman opened the meeting by saying he has concerns about how much Derby may charge Orange for capital repairs to its sewage treatment plant, which he described as aging.
Kleffman repeatedly stated an engineer needs to be hired to undertake an independent assessment of the Derby plant, and members expressed a desire that Anderson would pay for the work.
Town Attorney Vincent Marino addressed the "Pandora's Box" concern by saying sewers cannot be put in any area along Route 34 to the east because the land is protected by state designations. However, Marino said that there are some concerns that to the north and to the west of Route 34 including a section of the Hine Farm in Derby that could be "susceptible" to a larger development that may include sewers. That section of the farm already is attached to sewers.
But Marino said he believes there is existing case law that will protect Orange, and not compel the town to install sewer lines. "It doesn't absolutely protect you," Marino said.
"Do I see (approving sewers) creating a Post Route on Route 34?" Marino asked. "I don't see it."
Former First Selectman Robert Sousa said after the meeting that by not allowing sewers in the area it ensures no large scale affordable housing complexes will ever be built in the area.
Marino also said the commission should consider levying a special benefits assessment if the project is approved. He said that assessment would allow Anderson to put aside money for capital repairs to Derby sewers system, and also allow him to build the assessment into the price of the units when he sells them. Marino said that should help ensure that the taxpayers do not end up footing the bill.
Afterwards Anderson said he is willing to work with the town and wants to construct a complex that all residents can be proud of. Anderson already has approval to construct 22 $1 million mansions at the site, and said that could easily increase to 29 lots. Anderson said he welcomes the conditional approval.
"Our goal is no costs to town," he said. Adding that his intention is to structure the sewer connection that it only be used for the senior housing project.
Anderson also said he was still deciding the costs of the residences as well as the age restriction, whether it be 55 or 62.
"I have bee meeting with citizens and we are discussing what they are looking for. The same goes for price, nothing is set in stone yet," he said.
The next meeting is 7 p.m. Jan. 18 and is tentatively scheduled for the Case Memorial Library. The Hine family still plans to operate a farm there including producing hay, corn and dairy products on the remaining 90 acres.