Smaller seniors projects coming to fore in Rye

Facility for memory impaired gets early approval for 60 units on Route One

Jack Driscoll

A year ago minimal provisions for senior care existed in Rye, and the demise of two Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) dimmed prospects for progress.

Nevertheless, below the surface, there's a bubbling of activity, including:

Separate efforts to build a CCRC on Breakfast Hill and on South Road have been abandoned. But, while admitting it no longer is looking for a location in Rye, Webster still is hoping to find a CCRC site in a nearby community.

What follows are the elements of the emerging senior-care picture:


Pink area shows general area where building is planned for Sanctuary Care facility. Parking in front and rear connected by driveway at right, rear right.

Jonathan McCoy, whose background had been in economics and in helping industries take advantage of technology, said he woke up one morning two years ago to the realization that "I'm just not being fulfilled." So he began research on the treatment of Alzheimer's and related ailments in  the US and in Canada, because there is "an overwhelming demand for care." Included in his findings, he said, is the fact that memory impairment now affects one of eight persons over age 65, according to the American Alzheimer's Association.

McCoy says he has found the "ideal" location, a 5.9-acre lot in a commercially-zoned  area on Route 1.  The Rye Board of Adjustment on July 25 granted Sanctuary Care a Nursing Home special exception, with conditions, to build a two-story, 40,000 square foot facility.

The conditions state that care be provided only for elderly patients with Alzheimer's and related impairments; that state approvals must be in place; and that the population for the 60 units be no higher than 80.

"A big part of the disease (Alzheimer's) is depression," McCoy notes, so the layout will include a library, a craft area, a solarium, a place for psychotherapy, working areas for visiting doctors and social workers and a secured walkaway in the back of the building.

Individual units will have a bay window, a bathroom with shower but, unless the family requests, no television.  Clusters of 15 units, to be called "Neighborhoods", will have a TV-viewing area and a country kitchen where the residents may eat if they prefer not to go to the main dining room.  A Great Room will also be available for a variety of uses, including community and family activites, he said.

McCoy says he has met with Rye fire and police officials to determine their needs and will make available to their departments a secure website that will use RFID tags for monitoring the movement of patients and staff and to view doorways.

The next step, probably in October, will be for all the aspects of the plan to be presented to the Technical Review Committee of the Planning Board. A 2009 opening is being aimed for.


The Planning Board accepted jurisdiction over the proposal after 3 1/2 hours of discussion regarding a subdivision and the RCD plan itself at the August 14 meeting.

First, the board had to give conditional approval to a four-lot subdivision plan involving the Rickert Investment Real Estate property, about 57 acres, at 160 Lafayette Road. John Rickert, the owner, would continue to hold the first two lots, while a third would be sold to The Housing Partnership (THP)for the RCD and a fourth, toward the rear, would be sold to the Rye Conservation Commission.

Without the subdivision, the 22-unit senior housing plan could not go forward, so the Planning Board wanted to first iron out subdivision issues, then take on the RCD.

Drainage and the conformance of what is now a driveway or private road leading to the RCD were the focus. Steve Oles, from AMES MSC Engineering in Portsmouth, provided detailed explanations regarding drainage and also said he was awaiting final results from OEST Associates Inc, who did core samplings to ensure that the private road met standards for a town-accepted road should that would be the approach agreed upon. Early indications were that the roadway was in conformance.

Details having to do with such things as parking, drainage ponds, trees along the road, fencing around the detention pond were still to be pinned down, but the board unanimously gave conditional approval.

In the meantime the Town of Rye has taken preliminary steps to name the proposed road "Airfield Drive". The Skateboard Park would become 4 Airfield Drive, the RCD would be 11 Airfield Drive, with the 22 units labeled with alphabet letters, and the Conservation lot would be 15 Airfield Drive.

To become an accepted road, the present roadway would have to be accepted by the Planning Board and ultimately the voters at next year's Town Election.

The town ordinance specifies that an RCD must front on a public street, so lawyers for Rickert and The Housing Partnership (the RCD developer) have backup plans (variance, appeal, amendment to ordinance) just in case street approval fails.


As a result of subdivision adjustments, the RCD property has grown by almost an acre to 10.9 acres, and buildings that once were plotted 100 feet from Random Road property lines are now 250 feet away, seeming to satisfy the closest abutter, Dave Carter, who thanked The Housing Partnership while emphasizing that privacy, visual impact and noise were concerns he had when the project was first announced.

Talk about defining moments, several reared themselves when the RCD details were rolled out: