September 23, 2014

Essex Zoning Commission Continues Public Hearing on Proposed Elderly Housing Expansion to April 21

ESSEX— The zoning commission has continued until April 21 the public hearing on a site plan for a proposed 22-unit elderly and affordable housing project in the Centerbrook section after the plan received expressions of support at a public hearing Monday.

Essex Elderly and Affordable Housing Inc., a non-profit group associated with the appointed Essex Housing Authority, is pursuing development of 22 units of elderly and affordable housing, including four two bedroom units, in a three-story building to be constructed on a one-acre town owned parcel on the southeast side of the existing Essex Court elderly housing complex at 16 Main St. The development would be called Essex Place, and receive access off Main Street through the Essex Court complex.

The project is being presented for site plan review under a process defined by state statute 8-30G, a law that is intended to promote additional elderly and affordable housing in Connecticut. Under the law, the commission retains authority to approve or reject the site plan for safety and public health reasons, but must waive certain requirements of the town’s zoning regulations in reviewing the proposal. The zoning board of appeals last fall rejected a request from EEAH Inc. for several variances related to the project.

Janet Atkeson, chairwoman of the Essex Housing Authority and president of EEAH Inc., told the commission the waiting list for units at Essex Court, a 36-unit elderly housing complex that opened in 1985, contains more than two dozen names. She said there is a clear need for the additional units that would come with an expansion that has been under discussion for more than a decade. The new units would be reserved for persons age 62 or older who meet income guidelines.

Project architect Tom Arcari, with the Quisnenberry Associates firm of Farmington, presented the plan for the building that would be 30-feet high and include a first floor community room that could seat up to 70 persons, and also serve as an emergency shelter for both complexes. There would be 46 parking spaces, with most located behind the building on the west side of the property.

While the 8-30G process limits the commission’s discretion over many details of the development, the project must receive local and state Department of Public Health approval for the septic system that would serve the complex. The plans remain under review by the local and state health departments, though Arcari said he anticipates receiving a written approval by the time the public hearing resumes on April 21.

Nine residents spoke in support of the project during the public hearing, with resident Mary Ann Pleva declaring the expansion of elderly housing is “very much needed and long overdue.” No one spoke in opposition to the project at the hearing.