Kensett senior housing project approved
After nearly a year of deliberations, the Planning & Zoning Commission has granted Sun Homes approval to expand an existing senior-housing development on Kensett Lane.
The project was delayed as the commission asked for plan revisions and sought assurances that older residents as opposed to families would make up a larger proportion of the tenants in the housing. The commission was deadlocked in April 2015 in a 3-3 vote over whether to allow the rezoning of the 2.49-acre site to allow the developer to build larger units.
The additional 14 units now cleared to go forward will all have three bedrooms or less, and references to the local school system will be deleted from marketing materials. The developer will also be required to include elevator access to the units.
To limit the impact on neighbors, Sun Homes agreed to repave a section of Wakemore Street, prevent traffic disruptions from construction, and preserve Wakemore as a dead end by keeping an entry gate to the development closed barring emergencies.
The prohibition on using the entrance on Wakemore includes most construction activities, Planning & Zoning Director Jeremy Ginsburg said.
Under the plan, 30 studio units in six buildings that were built in 1988 to accommodate seniors would be demolished and replaced by one building holding 55 one-bedroom units at 719 Post Road, said William Crosskey, the Hartford-based architect on the project.
New common areas on each floor including meeting space, shared kitchen space for events, and keycard security are amenities that would foster a greater sense of community and improve safety, said Bruce Hill, an attorney for the Darien Housing Authority.
“The campus style is problematic with these individual buildings with stairways to go up to units,” Hill said. “A lot of the projects we undertook as a town in the 1980s have not worn well over the years and this is probably one of them.”
The Housing Authority is working with existing residents of the Old Town Hall Homes to transition into appropriate housing for the duration of the project, said Jan Raymond, chairman of the Darien Housing Authority.
The authority is working with the Housing Education Resource Commission to ensure the dislocated residents continue to have access to the same services when the project breaks ground.
“The tenants who exist there now are our first responsibility and first concern,” Raymond said. “They (HERC) will come in help tenants pack and move, and we will store anything they want to store …We know it is not easy for anyone to move, especially to move twice, especially with an older population.”