New Palestine BZA tables special exception request for elderly development

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Proposed site for senior appartment complex is located at 3985 South 600W.

NEW PALESTINE — A Board of Zoning (BZA) meeting designed to see if the Ashton Acres Senior Living Center could get a special exception to build under an elderly development ordinance rather than under (R-3) single-family residential zoning requirements fell flat late last week.

Keller Development has proposed to build a two-story senior apartment building which would have caps on monthly rent fees for residents 55 and older based on income. The property is located at 3985 South 600W. The nearly seven acres has already been annexed into the New Palestine town limits and zoned R-3.

During previous planning and council meetings, officials with the project discussed lowering parking standards under the elderly guidelines and developing more green areas to beautify the complex. The special exception was the next phase in a lengthy approval process.

While the question of how many parking spaces will be added to the project kept the special exception title from moving forward at the recent New Palestine BZA meeting, it doesn’t mean the project is dead just yet.

Still, BZA president Mike Evans, vice president Chester Mosley, secretary Raven Smathers and board member Kathy Hall didn’t feel comfortable approving the special exception following a lengthy discussion. Member Debra Green did not attend the meeting.

While the BZA was asked to vote only on the special exception status of building under an elderly development request, which could allow the developer to go as low as adding only one parking space per each of the 50 two bedroom units, the parking number was the sticking point.

Greg Majeski spoke on behalf of the developer and asked the BZA to give the builders the special building exception request to allow for the elderly housing development, but noted they would add as many parking spaces as town officials asked for even though their current plan calls for only 58.

“We’re still working that part out,” Majeski said.

Majeski noted reducing the parking standards would make the site look better.

Several people spoke during the meeting and afterwards the BZA members couldn’t agree to allow for the special building exception request to move forward.

Majeski stated in their other developments they have about one vehicle per unit and estimated they’ll probably only have a true need for about 45 vehicle parking spaces in New Palestine.

“Right now we have 58 parking spaces drawn,” Majeski said.

He said that number exceeds what the elderly ordinance says by about 18 spaces.

Town manager Jim Robinson chimed in and said the town is losing seniors to other counties because there really isn’t a place like Keller is proposing to build in New Palestine.

“We will continue to lose seniors without a product like this,” Robinson said.

Council president Clint Bledsoe attended the meeting and spoke against the measure, saying an independent senior living facility calls for at least two parking spaces per unit.

“How many people 55 and older do you know who don’t drive?” Bledsoe said. “I don’t believe there is going to be less than one car per apartment. Without that (the development) being a dependent, with a memory care and things like that, it’s not a senior community.”

Rawm Walley, president of the town’s planning commission, also spoke and said that in R-3 zoning elderly developments can be built with the special exception and that the developer has followed all the proper rules in asking for the elderly special exception.

Smathers noted with some 50 proposed residents and two employees that would leave only six parking spaces available for visitors.

“So you can only have six people visit 50 people and we’re over capacity,” Smathers said. “I think it needs to go back to the drawing board.”

Majeski noted if the developer wanted to lower parking standards, they would have applied for a parking wavier, but the goal is to create a development for senior citizens that exceeds what the town defines as senior living.

“We specialize in serving seniors,” Majeski said. “We absolutely can add more parking, but we don’t want to create a depressing area with rain runoff.”

In the end, the BZA couldn’t agree on if the developer met all the requirements to get the special exception and opted to table the issue and take it up at a future meeting in December.