Senior housing plan behind Skate Park seems to be on a roll

Efforts underway to move footprint of 22 units away from abutters

Jack Driscoll

Like a new suit, it’s getting a nip here, a tuck there and the cuffs adjusted.

Otherwise, the proposal for a 22-unit, all-rental Retirement Community Development behind Rye’s Skate Park and adjacent to the old airfield seems to be getting approving nods.

Unlike the ten times larger Webster CCRC plan, the RCD has faced no opposition and only some disagreement over details after two public presentations in the last several weeks:  one to Random Road neighbors and one before the Planning Board.

Most of the dissent on certain specifics has come from Random Road abutters who would prefer that the single and double-occupancy dwellings (mostly single) be plotted elsewhere on the 10-plus-acre lot, rather than be clustered directly opposite their backyards.

“You’re building 75 feet from my garden,” said the closest abutter, Bruce Peacock, at an April 10 Planning Board session attended by a dozen residents, several of whom live on Random Road.  “I can’t see why you can’t move it back.”

Marty Chapman of The Housing Partnership, which proposes to build, operate and manage the RCD, repeated that the conceptual location of the housing was dictated by wetlands on the airfield side of the property and a previously-sited septic field, but he agreed to take another look at the possibilities.  Two weeks later THP decided to reduce the size of single-person units, and Chapman said there was a possibility “we could move the footprint further north.”

New borings also are being taken to determine whether the septic system could be relocated.

He said that in the original plan the window-to-window distance between the farmhouse-like units and existing homes was “a minimum of 220 feet”.  He also said there were plans for a buffer.  That prompted discussion about the quality of the buffer that would be planted.

Original plan:  Lafayette Road is at top left; could housing-cluster footprint be moved somewhat toward upper right?

Acting Planning Board chairman Mel Low, who has recused himself from any votes because of earlier contacts with THP in connection with an RCD, said he is convinced the plot plan can be adjusted, particularly if the number of garage units could be cut down.

The ordinance, passed in the 2006 town election, states:  “Each dwelling unit shall be provided with a one-car garage attached in close proximity to the unit and one other parking space.”

Chapman, who is THP’s director of real estate, said that “garages are tough to get funded.  Perhaps covered parking (carports) could be considered.”

THP made one adjustment on its own in April, based on market considerations, deciding that the majority of the dwellings would be for single persons.  It also decided to reduce the size of single units from 850 to 800 square feet. All units would be one floor and would contain a laundry area.  As of now, all will be affordable units, meaning renters will have to meet an income standard that could range between $24,000 and $38,000, depending on the unit size.  Only income, including Social Security and certain liquid assets, is weighed.

Low has suggested that a few market units might be allotted for those exceeding the affordable status.

Rents will range between $700 and $900, including utilities, according to Chapman.  The six-building complex will have a manager and is expected to have a tenants’ organization.  The RCD is planning a community building (not required by the ordinance) for family and social gatherings.  Planning Board member Don Cavallaro suggested it would make sense to use swipe cards or some other sort of restricted entry for security reasons.

Access to the RCD is at 160 Lafayette Road by way of a private, full-width road that runs alongside the Skate Park, owned by John Rickert, who is prepared to sell the parcel to THP and is negotiating with the Rye Conservation Commission which would like to buy another 11 acres on the White Horse Farms side of the proposed RCD location.  Commissioner Jim Raynes says he is optimistic an agreement will be reached.

It’s possible the private road might be required to be public.  This is one of the details that might be part of the next step, an application review before the Planning Board’s Technical Review Committee on May 29 (at Town Hall courtroom, 7 p.m.).  Should the application be recommended by the committee, the final step would likely be before the Planning Board on June 12.

As of now, THP has no plans to request any variances.

May, 2007