Planning Board grants preliminary approval for assisted living facility

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MANALAPAN – A planned assisted living facility has cleared its first hurdle in Manalapan.

On Feb. 28, members of the Manalapan Planning Board voted 9-0 to grant preliminary subdivision approval and preliminary site plan approval to an application submitted by the Stavola Asphalt Company.

The board’s vote came after more than three hours of testimony from professionals who represented the applicant. The professionals described a plan to subdivide a 65-acre parcel at Route 33 westbound and Woodward Road into three tracts and to construct a one-story assisted living facility on an 8-acre lot.

An assisted living facility is a permitted use at the location, according to the board’s planner, Jennifer Beahm.

Stavola Asphalt Company was seeking preliminary and final major subdivision approval and preliminary and final major site plan approval, but board members chose not to grant final approval for the subdivision or for the site plan. The applicant will have to return at a future date to seek final approval for certain aspects of its plan.

Stavola Asphalt Company was represented by attorney Kate Coffey, of the firm Day Pitney LLP.

The 65-acre property is in Manalapan’s Special Economic Development/Affordable Housing overlay zone and the Route 33 overlay zone.

Stavola Asphalt Company proposed to subdivide the property into three lots: lot 1 (51 acres); lot 2 (6 acres); and lot 3 (8 acres). Lot 3 is the assisted living lot.

At present, no development is proposed on lot 1 and lot 2, according to engineer William Lane, who testified on behalf of the applicant. Future plans anticipate about 150 residential units, including affordable housing units, on lot 1, and two or three buildings, for retail and/or restaurant use, on lot 2.

During one exchange, Beahm asked Coffey when the applicant plans to come before the board with plans for the townhouse development that is expected to include affordable housing.

Coffey said there are open issues regarding that aspect of the overall development, but suggested the townhouse development could come before the board within the next two years.

“This site came up through affordable housing litigation,” Beahm responded. “I am extremely concerned when you say two years. I don’t know that is something we are thrilled to hear.”

Regarding the assisted living facility, Lane testified the building would contain 60 residential units, common space and amenity space. The 57,000-square-foot building would include 40 private units and 20 semi-private units to serve a total of 80 residents.

Testimony indicated that 10 percent of the beds would be Medicaid beds and that Manalapan would receive affordable housing credits for those beds.

Lane said the facility would be serviced by public water and sewer, and have access fromĀ  Woodward Road. The landscaping plan proposed more than 170 new trees, more than 630 shrubs and ground cover.

The board heard testimony from David Woodward, the chief operating officer of Springpoint Senior Living, which would operate the assisted living facility.

Woodward said the building would be divided into three “neighborhoods” which would provide a tailored level of care to individuals based on their needs. He said some medical professionals would come to the facility to provide care for residents, while in other cases residents would be transported to medical appointments off-site.

Architect Michael Spencer said the building would include a common area, offices, lounge space for residents, a beauty/barber shop, maintenance and mechanical spaces, kitchen facilities and dining space in each wing.

During his testimony, Justin Taylor, a traffic engineer with Dynamic Traffic, said an assisted living facility “is a relatively low traffic generator during the peak commuting hours. We would see between 15 and 20 cars entering and leaving the facility during each peak hour. My opinion is that the traffic impact would be negligible from this facility and that there would be no detrimental impact on the surrounding roads.”

Brian Boccanfuso, the board’s engineer, concurred with Taylor’s assessment and said, “this (proposed) use could be considered as low as possible, other than having no development at all.”

When the meeting was opened to comments from the public, Geri Kaplan, who lives in the neighboring Knob Hill development, addressed several issues, including whether water pressure in Knob Hill would be impacted by the construction of the assisted living facility, congestion at the intersection of Route 33 and Woodward Road, and a habitat on the applicant’s property that could be home to bog turtles.

“There will be consideration for the bog turtle and the area of Stillhouse Brook. We will comply with Department of Environmental Protection requirements,” Lane said, explaining there will be a 150-foot riparian buffer around the wetlands on the property. The 150-foot buffer will exceed the required 50-foot buffer, he said.

Deputy Mayor Jack McNaboe, who sits on the board, noted there is a residential facility (not an assisted living facility) nearby on Route 33. He said that in recent years, several residents of the residential facility have been struck and killed by motor vehicles as they walked along the highway to and from stores at the corner of Route 33 and Woodward Road.

Speaking to Woodward, the chief operating officer of Springpoint Senior Living, McNaboe asked about that issue and said, “I want to make sure we don’t have people getting injured from your facility.”

Woodward said each resident of the assisted living facility would undergo a cognitive and medical assessment before being accepted as a resident. He said the typical age of a person entering the facility would be about 75, but acknowledged to McNaboe that in terms of restricting an individual from going where he or she wants to go, “You’re right, it’s a very fine line.”

The applicant’s representatives said sidewalks would be installed on Woodward Road in the vicinity of the proposed facility. The project is pending approval from the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Western Monmouth Utilities Authority (sewer) and the Freehold Soil Conservation District.

As board members considered how they wanted to proceed, a question was raised about possibly denying the application because the affordable housing that may be constructed on one lot at the site has not yet been proposed.

However, the board’s attorney, Ron Cucchiaro, said that in regard to the proposed assisted living facility, “the site is largely compliant and case law does not support a denial.”

In the end, a motion was made to grant preliminary approval for the subdivision of the property and the site plan for the assisted living facility. The applicant will have to return to seek final approval on certain aspects of the application.

Chairwoman Kathryn Kwaak, Vice Chairman Todd Brown and board members Alan Ginsberg, Daria D’Agostino, David Kane, John Castronovo, Barry Fisher, Township Committeeman Barry Jacobson and McNaboe voted “yes” on the motion.