Wilton ZBA says no to variance to lower age for elderly housing units to 55

  • Zoning Board Chair Neil Faiman discusses a variance application for lowering the town's age restriction on elderly housing during a meeting Tuesday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Zoning Board member Joanna Eckstrom comments on the necessity for a variance for lowering the age restriction on an elderly housing proposal during a meeting Tuesday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Chad Brannon of Fieldstone Land Consultants presents a proposed elderly housing development, where the applicant was requesting a lowering of the age restriction, during a Zoning Board meeting. Staff photo by Ashley SaarI

  • Glendale Homes is proposing a 23-unit elderly housing development, and requested a variance from the Zoning Board to lower the required age from 60 to 55.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 8/14/2019 8:50:59 PM

The Wilton Zoning Board of Adjustment turned down a variance request to lower the required age for an elderly housing development in a split vote Tuesday, a move developers said could make the project unmarketable.

The board voted 3-2 to reject the application, on the grounds the applicant didn’t make a case that the property had any unique characteristics requiring relief from the ordinance.

Glendale Homes, Inc., owned by Gerry Tanguay, presented plans to build a 23-unit housing development at 304 Gibbons Highway (Route 101) at Tuesday’s ZBA meeting. The development would follow Wilton’s zoning guidelines in most respects, but Tanguay sought to reduce the required age from 60 – as required under Wilton’s elderly housing district – to 55.

Tanguay said under the rules of the development, at least one member of the household would have to be over 55, and no resident could be under the age of 18.

Currently, Wilton only has one elderly housing development, Edgewater Estates, which has 33 units for people 62 or older or who are disabled. Based on population, that’s about one unit per 111 people in Wilton. Comparatively, Peterborough, which has multiple retirement and assisted living communities, has about one unit per 19 people, despite its larger population. Greenville, which has a population just over 2,000, has about one unit per 29 people. New Ipswich has approximately one elderly housing unit per 155 people.

Chad Brannon of Fieldstone Land Consultants, presenting on behalf of Glendale Homes and Tanguay, said 55 years of age is consistent with state and federal laws surrounding elderly housing developments and is also in line with Wilton’s surrounding communities.

“Based on a knowledge of the market, those looking to move into an elderly housing development start at 55 years of age,” Brannon said.

Tanguay added he has built elderly housing units in other towns, both using a 55 years or older model, and that a significant portion of the residents purchasing units were in the 55-60 age range. When asked if he could make the project work with the town’s current ordinance, Tanguay said it would give him pause.

“I don’t know if I’d do the project,” he said.

Several members of the board commented that Brannon’s points likely made a case that the ordinance – which have not been significantly updated since their adoption several decades ago – may be out of date and need to be updated. But despite that, the entire board wasn’t convinced there was sufficient reason to overturn the current rules for the Glendale Homes application.

One of the requirements of granting a variance is that there is a “hardship” presented as a consequence of special conditions of the property – and the majority of the board wasn’t convinced the property presented any roadblocks to building a community for residents older than 60.

“To me, that’s the bottom line,” Chair Neil Faiman said. “There’s nothing specific to this lot or proposal. Uniqueness is the essence of hardship.”

Other members of the board protested that in past cases, the board has taken a more flexible stance on that issue.

“Economic hardship has been accepted before,” said member Peter Howd.

“This is a project I think would be good for the town, and they’re hung up on a technicality,” said member Paul Levesque.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also continued a public hearing on a proposed variance for the height of a proposed asphalt plant and storage silo on Quinn Drive, due to lack of a full board to hear the issue, due to a recusal. The board will continue that hearing on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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