Jul 28, 2014

Senior-Living Facility Plans Await Council Vote

City Council is expected to vote on a proposal for a senior-living facility on Wild Horse Creek Road Monday night.

Senior-Living Facility Plans Await Council Vote

After eight years and several proposed plans, a tract of land on Wild Horse Creek Road could become a senior-living center.

Chesterfield City Council is expected to vote Monday night on a proposed zoning change and a conditional use permit that would allow landowner and developer Rodney Henry to build an on eight acres. The Planning and Public Works Committee has recommended approval of both proposals.

A plan for the land near the  child care center and  has long been in the works. The land was zoned several years ago for neighborhood offices—such as doctors' or dentists' offices— but Henry never broke ground. Aimee Nassif, the city's planning and development services director, said plans for the senior-living facility, the third suggested use for the land over the last eight or so years, were submitted in the fall of 2010.

The zoning
The plans have met with resistance. Residents of neighborhoods in the area expressed concerns over an earlier proposal for the senior-living center that requested a denser residential zoning. They were concerned that future developers might see that designation and ask for a higher density zoning on their land. And it would be harder for the city to say no.

The proposal for denser residential zoning has since been withdrawn. City council will consider rezoning the land as residential with a density designation more compatible with the surrounding large single-family lots on Monday.

The conditional use permit
Even if the land is zoned for residential use, the plan to build a senior-living center requires a special exception: a conditional use permit.

This permit places additional requirements on the development that wouldn’t be included in zoning regulations. For example, the permit caps the number of living units at 120, with no more than 33 in the independent-living facility. It also caps the total square footage of the facility at 105,000 square feet.

Typically, conditional use permits only need to be approved by the Chesterfield Planning Commission. The planning commission at their May 9 meeting.

But at the , members voted to bring the permit before the council via their power of review.

Ward 4 Councilwoman and Planning and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Connie Fults requested the review. The senior-living facility would be in Ward 4, which Councilman Bob Nation also represents. Nation spoke against the permit at the planning commission’s May 9 meeting and the May 24 Planning and Public Works Committee meeting.

A difference of opinion
At the committee meeting Nation expressed concerns over the size, location and density of the proposed development.

"The main reason I'm speaking up," he said, "is because I was elected to represent a majority of residents' best interests, whether they be silent or vocal.

"105,000 square feet is incompatible, inconsistent and detrimental to the surrounding area," said Nation, who is not a member of the Planning and Public Works Committee.

When the land was zoned for neighborhood offices, a 30,000 square-foot development was approved. The proposed senior-living center is more than triple that size. Nation pointed to a city staff report that showed the proposed senior-living facility has a floor area ratio—a measurement that divides the square footage of a development by the size of its lot—that's "far in excess" when compared to other senior-living facilities in Chesterfield.

There are no city regulations on floor area ratio in residential areas.

The proposed development has roughly the same amount of common spaces, such as a chapel and cafeteria, as living space. Fults said that ratio may indicate a better quality of development.

Like Nation, Fults said she felt she was representing a majority of residents in this matter. Through the years, proposed developments at the site have come under fire because of residents' concerns over how the land would be used and increased traffic on Wild Horse Creek Road. The senior-living facility, she said, allays those fears. Neighbors approve of the residential use. And, according to traffic studies, nursing homes create far less traffic than office buildings.

Renee Heney spoke at the meeting on behalf of the Wild Horse Creek Road Association, a group that represents a dozen neighborhoods along the road. Heney said the association would prefer a smaller development and buildings that are only two stories tall—the independent-living unit is proposed as three stories. Overall, the association is comfortable with residential use of the land. But, she said, she hopes the senior-living facility is a viable and sustainable development.

"I don't know that there's a need for another senior-living facility," Heney said. "But this plan before council seems reasonable to us."

In an email, Heney expressed concern that if the development failed, it would join several other vacant buildings along Wild Horse Creek Road, such as the West County Christian and Korean Full Gospel churches, and the .

"My point is that among the thousands of lovely homes in the area and several thriving horse stables/pastures, we now have numerous vacant and soon-to-be vacant non-residential buildings that, for whatever reason, have not been successful in this area," Heney wrote.

"We know city planners and city council members cannot approve or disapprove of a project based on 'need.' But residents trust that they will assess the long-term viability of a proposed development to ensure the continued desirability of this section of Chesterfield."

After about an hour of discussion, the four members of the Planning and Public Works Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of the conditional use permit with two amendments: that the independent-living facility not be occupied until the assisted-living facility is, and that the assisted-living facility be no taller than two stories and the independent-living facility be capped at three stories.

What's next?
City council is expected to vote on both the zoning and the conditional use permit at their meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at . Both have to be approved for the project to move forward.

Even if both proposals are approved, the senior-living facility won't be built overnight. Henry and his architects will have to present site plans for city approval. Those plans would clearly explain landscaping, parking, lighting and other details. Because construction won’t start until those plans are approved, groundbreaking isn’t likely to occur until next year.

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