Kensington Senior Development LLC came before the Verona Board of Adjustment on Thursday to get approval to build an assisted living facility on the site of the Richfield Regency. The company was able to present only about half of its witnesses, so the application review will continue in August.
Michael Rafeedie, Kensington’s development officer, outlined plans for a three-story building on the Richfield site at 420 Bloomfield Avenue, with 55 underground parking spaces, and 54 additional parking spaces on the Richfield lot at 312 Claremont Avenue. There will be 92 units in the building, roughly half of which will be studio apartments, with the rest split between one- and two-bedroom units, for a total of 130 residents.
The new building will be a v-shape, with fully rendered, windowed facades that slope along both Bloomfield and Claremont avenues, and access to the underground parking from both roads. In addition to the residential units, it will have a dining room, cafe, parlor, library, movie theater, activity room, art studio and an interior courtyard. Kensington will have both assisted living and a memory care unit in the development, but it would not be licensed as a skilled nursing facility.
Rafeedie said the facility would create about 100 jobs once it opens, primarily on daytime shifts, and that it could have a substantial impact on the local economy, by bringing residents out for meals at area restaurants and bringing in local entertainers. He said that, at its White Plains, N.Y. facility, the company has spent about $1 million with local businesses. That facility, which opened in 2011, has five floors of rooms.
Kensington’s business model is to build assisted living facilities in urbanized locations on major roads, like one in White Plains. Several years ago, Kensington tried to build on Church Street in Montclair next to the Unitarian Universalist church, but the plan fell apart after a court ruled that two Montclair councilmen should have recused themselves from the vote on it because they had leadership roles at the church.
Kensington needs several variances to build at the Verona site, including one to add assisted living to the permitted uses for properties that are zoned as Town Center. Assisted living is currently not a permitted use in town anywhere. (Hillwood Terrace, which is often referred to as Verona’s senior housing, is actually a Section 8 property for low-income households.) Kensington is under contract to purchase two properties, but the Richfield Regency will continue to book events through the end of 2019.
In addition to Rafeedie, the Board of Adjustment also heard from Kensington’s architect and site planner, who disputed an assertion made by the Verona Environmental Commission that the development could add to Verona’s affordable housing obligations: 10% of the units would be reserved for Medicaid recipients, which would help meet Verona’s needs. Verona is awaiting a settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center to determine exactly what those needs are.
Residents who attended the hearing raised questions about how the building would handle storm runoff and snow removal, since the building covers almost the totality of the nearly 1-acre site. The plan calls for a modern drainage system, which the Richfield building does not now have, and heavy snowfalls would likely have to be carted off site. Zoning board members asked Kensington about access for emergency services and whether the building could be more environmentally friendly. Kensington’s facility in Reston, Va. is LEED Silver-certified by the United States Green Building Council.
At the next hearing on Thursday, August 9, the board will hear from Kensington’s traffic witness. That hearing will be in the Verona Community Center ballroom at 8 p.m.