Zoning change clears path for senior living development

The Planning & Zoning Commission has approved a zone change for the former UnitedHealth building, at 48 Monroe Tpke.
The Planning & Zoning Commission has approved a zone change for the former UnitedHealth building, at 48 Monroe Tpke.

A proposed mixed senior housing development took a step closer to reality last night as the Planning & Zoning Commission approved changes to its regulations. The changes passed the commission 4-1 with Fred Garrity, Dan Helfrich, Tony D’Aquila and Anthony Chory voting in favor, and Larry LaConte opposing.

The new regulation will allow the group 48 Monroe Turnpike LLC to formally propose a plan to build about 150 independent living units, plus assisted living and memory care on the former UnitedHealth site on Route 111. The independent living units would be subject to an over-55 age restriction. The development group has shown the commission drafts of what it intends to propose and requested the zoning changes be applied to the property.

Discussion of the changes centered on some specific language in the regulations, including use of the word “spouse” and a discussion on the necessity of an outright ban on children under age 19 from living there.

The zone’s original wording allowed people over 55 and their spouse to live in age-restricted units. Garrity, the commission chairman, commented that he was not in favor of regulating residents’ relationships.

“I know this flies in the face of old-school, but within the four walls of their apartments, I don’t think we need to inflict on people that they need to be married,” he said before proposing that the words “or cohabitant” be added after “spouse.”

The commission also briefly discussed eliminating language that prohibited children under age 19 from living at the property. Garrity said he doubted whether families with children would be drawn to live in an age restricted facility that also included assisted living and memory care.

“It’s not like there’s going to be swing sets in the courtyard,” he said. That discussion ended as fellow commissioners Chory and D’Aquila voiced their support for keeping the 19-year-old limit.

Chory commented that reducing the number of apartments that could affect the school population was one of the factors that made the zone change palatable.

“I see a number of good things here,” he said. Other positives included the existence of a stop light at the entrance to the property and the site’s Route 111 location.

“The area should be very desirable,” Chory said. “There’s a gym and restaurants across the street, and the light will allow them to come and go safely.”

D’Aquila said he thought the proposal was in keeping with the town’s revisions to its Plan of Conservation and Development, which cited a need to address the needs of Trumbull’s seniors. He said the existence of a facility like the potential 48 Monroe Turnpike development could help seniors age in place.

“As our population continues to age, and households shrink, I expect to see a sustained interest in sustainable housing needs,” D’Aquila said.

Garrity concluded the discussion by noting that although the commission had heard plenty of pros and cons, he believed the changes would ultimately be good for the town.

“I believe this application shows positive economic growth for the town with very little impact, and no effect on schools,” he said.