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Developer won't budge on proposal

Published 10:31 am, Thursday, August 7, 2014

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  • Penny Glassmeyer is proposing to building housing for "empty nesters" at 40 Locust Hill, the former site of the Knobel Brothers Hardware Store. Photo: Megan Spicer / Darien News
    Penny Glassmeyer is proposing to building housing for "empty nesters" at 40 Locust Hill, the former site of the Knobel Brothers Hardware Store. Photo: Megan Spicer

 

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If Penny Glassmeyer can't have six senior housing units on her Locust Hill Road property, she won't have any at all.

During a lengthy discussion July 31, Darien Planning and Zoning Commission members debated how many units could fit on the property, which is just shy of three acres.

"I've almost promised all six (units) to people," Glassmeyer told the commission. "I'm not interested in five (units)."

Glassmeyer told the commission that she envisioned the development to resemble an English village and that if she could only have five units, it would become "less important" and "not worth all the work."

"This site is perfect for what I am doing," Glassmeyer said, noting that the property, which also can be accessed from Settlers Trail, is a short distance to the center of town. The properties across the street from the proposed empty-nester development are zoned for half-acre parcels.

The public hearing was closed.

Glassmeyer's application is a proposed amendment to the town's R-1 Residence Zone, which would allow multi-family, age-restricted developments in some 1 acre-zoned locations throughout town.

The property is the former site of the Knobel Brothers hardware store.

Robert Maslan, representing Glassmeyer, modified the original application after the June 25 P&Z meeting to make it more specific. The proposed units would have a maximum square footage of 3,000 feet each and they would have a height maximum of 30 feet and two stories, Maslan said. Residents would have to be 62 or older to be eligible.

Discussion focused on the appropriate age limit for residents in the development. Some of the commissioners suggested 55 and older, but others offered the rebuttal that 55-year-olds can have 18-year-old children, defeating the purpose of the "empty nester" aspect of the development.

Maslan told the commission at an earlier meeting that there are roughly 10 other sites where the empty-nester overlay zone could apply, including the Zeigler property on Long Neck Point Road; 203 Long Neck Point Road, which is 3 acres and the former site of Firwood, which was demolished before the property was put back on the market; and 108 Long Neck Point Road, which is 7 acres.

However, at the recent meeting, Glassmeyer told the commission that it was "ridiculous" in her mind to talk about doing empty-nester housing in the Noroton Bay area.

Resident Al Lynch, who lives at 28 Long Neck Point, "strongly urged" the commission to not consider the proposal, saying that the possibility of the regulation being applied to Long Neck Point is "really outrageous."

He said the adoption of the regulation may invite developers who are "not as careful as Penny" into town.

Commissioner Rich DiDonna said he wants Glassmeyer to be able to develop the property, but doesn't want the regulation to apply to the entire town.

DiDonna said housing for empty nesters is one of "great need" in Darien.

"There are not too many opportunities for people 62 and older," P&Z Chairwoman Sue Cameron said. "If that changes now, I think you could have to start all over again."

She added that the higher age would reduce the amount of activity on the site.

"The less activity really spoke to me," Cameron said.

Several residents spoke out against the application during the first public hearing session, saying the construction of the senior housing would disrupt the character of the neighborhood and the area isn't conducive to senior living.

During the meeting, DiDonna attempted to determine what the regulation's impact would be on the town if the other potential sites in town were developed in a similar fashion. However, no final net increase in units was determined.

It also was unclear during the meeting is the parcel of land is just under three acres or at or above three acres.

Deliberation on the application was tabled until after Labor Day.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 230-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews