Assisted living facility sparks debate
Neighbors vow to fight proposed mill-like building
Plans to build a four-story, 74-room assisted living facility on Post Road overlooking Greenwich Bay is shaping up to be a battle over esthetics and what best complements a neighborhood of single-family Victorian homes, small office buildings and condominiums.
While obstructions of views are often the basis of objections to buildings near the water, in this instance it is the view neighbors will have of the building that appears to have fueled much of the opposition.
“They have hired one of the state’s most prominent architectural firms,” John C. Revens said of 1635 Division Road LLC and Richard Miga Jr. An attorney, Revens is representing the Miga family that owns and operates Brentwood Nursing Home and Sunny View Nursing Home, both in Warwick. The Migas own four parcels immediately south of Brentwood on which they would build a long rectangular building in the style of a mill building, with brick facing, large windows and a square tower at its center. Union Studio designed the project.
Construction would entail the demolition of three buildings and, as Revens notes, it is a use allowable under the current zoning.
Revens said the facility, of all single rooms with bathrooms and common meeting areas, including a dining room, would be the “first big investment in decades” along that stretch of Post Road. He also said there is a high demand for assisted living facilities and he would expect it would be fully occupied within months of being completed. Should the plan gain necessary approvals – it comes before the Planning Board for master plan consideration tomorrow night and would also require Zoning Board approval – Revens said construction would start almost immediately and the facility would be operational in less than a year. He put the cost at about $6 million.
While adjacent to Brentwood, Revens said the facility would have a separate staff, which he projected at 40 people working over three shifts. Being adjacent to Brentwood, Revens said would enable a continuum of care for people eventually requiring more care than provided in assisted living.
It is the idea that the facility will look more like a factory than a home that has Sea Watch condominium owners upset. In addition, the condo association has drafted a three-page white paper listing scores of concerns from the size of the structure, lack of a traffic study and “unfair encroachment of neighbors.”
“If I wanted to live next to a mill building four stories high, I would move to Olneyville,” said condo association treasurer Charles McNamara. He said the Miga family made no effort to discuss their plans with them and, had the condo association known what was planned, they might have forgone $200,000 in upgrades to Sea Watch, including new balconies and air conditioning.
McNamara’s view of the facility is that it is “on the cheap and is going to be a huge eye sore.”
“It is one of the cheapest ways to build and it has no compatibility with the neighborhood,” he said. “They’re not going to jam this down our throats without a fight and it’s going to be a good fight.”
Among those issues raised in the Sea Watch white paper are:
Revens had not seen the white paper when interviewed Thursday, but said, “Whatever issues they have, we’ll address them all.” He called the proposal a “state-of-the-art facility” that is in high demand.
“There are hundreds of beds full,” he said of nursing homes, “and this is an intermediate facility for people who don’t need as much care.”
He also noted that this is the third generation of Migas to run nursing homes. In addition, the family runs Playground Prep, a pre-school in East Greenwich. In its recommendations, the Planning Department recommends that the applicant modify the site plan “to limit the impact of the building on the abutting residential complex” by moving the building north and west on the site. And, while not being outright critical of the building design, the department suggests “The project architect consider the residential character of the building and [the] area and incorporate elements to reflect this in the building design.”
The Planning Board hearing will be held in the downstairs conference room in City Hall starting at 6 tomorrow.