Sunrise Senior Living presented significant changes to the Pleasantville Village Board last week for a proposed senior facility at the United Methodist Church site on Bedford Road.
During the Nov. 27 work session, Jerry Liang, Sunrise’s senior vice president of investments and development, pitched a revised proposal for 55 memory care units, down from the originally–proposed 79-unit assisted living facility.
Liang said the organization has considered the feedback from village officials and the community and reworked the plan. Neighbors, primarily from Maple Hill Road, have been outspoken opponents to developing the site, arguing that a commercial-type facility at that location would be an inappropriate site for the project.
“Sunrise fundamentally believes in the use in this location but we understand that some of the concerns raised are actually legitimate, so we decided to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do,” Liang said.
While Liang mentioned that the initial proposal was based on Sunrise’s standard prototype, it has now reduced the number of units by nearly one-third in a two-story building. The previous plan called for a three-story structure built into the elevation of the site to make it appear smaller.
“A smaller building is much more in line with the two-story homes in the surrounding area,” Liang said. “We’re hoping that this particular use will complement the existing services in the village as well and really serve the residents of Pleasantville.”
Liang added that the revised plan would require less parking, have fewer impacts and likely result in lower tax revenues than the previous proposal. Nine parking spaces will also be removed at the north end of the building, increasing the buffer for Maple Hill residents.
The revised Sunrise proposal is a replication of two smaller facilities the outfit has built for memory care, Liang said. He said he spoke with several residents and explained that it would serve a great need in the village.
Mayor Peter Scherer requested the entrance to the building be moved from Maple Hill to Bedford Road. Liang responded that he would explore the change along with taking responsibility for the retaining wall that faces Bedford Road, a state thoroughfare.
Sunrise’s 79-unit assisted living facility would have accommodated about 90 residents. The site would have contained 40 parking spots, including two handicapped–accessible spaces.
A zoning change was also requested of the Village Board to add a new floating overlay district. New zoning for the site is needed before Sunrise can pursue site plan approval from the Planning Commission.
During last June’s public hearing, Maple Hill residents and other neighbors in the site’s vicinity opposed the zoning change and urged the board to vote against Sunrise’s petition. Four of the five village board members indicated the project was wrong for the site.
While Sunrise is willing to make adjustments, Liang said the company doesn’t want to expend additional resources pitching another plan that will be shot down.
“We’ve already spent a significant amount of time and a significant amount of money putting together full applications as you’ve seen before,” Liang said. “We’re willing to do that again if a project is something, as a whole, you guys generally feel pretty good about. If it’s not, then it’s not something we intend to or desire to spend even more time and money walking down a dead end.”
Jack Purdy, chairman of the United Methodist Church Board of Trustees, and Rev. Suhee Kim, the church’s pastor, wrote a letter to the Village Board urging officials to consider the new proposal. The letter stated that using the undeveloped land in a way that is consistent with the church’s mission is a financial necessity.
“We have actively researched other, largely as-of-right, options for moving forward in the event that the Board does not work with Sunrise to craft a senior assisted living project on the site that works for Pleasantville,” the Nov. 17 letter stated. “Sadly, though we too love our wooded lot, leaving it undeveloped is not a viable option for the church.”
Scherer, who was strongly opposed to the previous plan, said the board needed time to discuss the new project and hear from neighborhood residents. The board would provide feedback at its Dec. 11 meeting.
Trustee Colleen Griffin Wagner stressed that she wanted to hear comments from a larger cross-section of the community.
“I think that there tends to be a lot of folks that come to the meetings here when they’re not in favor of something and we don’t always hear directly from people who are,” Wagner said. “I would very much like to hear comments from all of those.”