Residential project for seniors gains conditional use approval in Peters Township

Harry Funk
Observer Reporter

A proposed 124-unit residential complex for senior citizens at Valley Brook Road and Friar Lane has gained conditional-use approval from Peters Township Council.

Voting for the measure Monday night were council members David Ball, Jim Berquist, Monica Merrell and Gary Stiegel Jr. Frank Arcuri, council chairman, joined Robert Lewis in opposing.

Frank Kosir Jr. abstained because his law firm, Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, represents the applicant, Minnesota-based The Waters Senior Living Holdings LLC, although he does not do so personally.

A conditional use is necessary for a group living facility in the township’s Town Center zoning district, where the 3.7-acre property is located. Also, the four-story maximum height of the complex exceeds what is permitted in the district.

Council’s approval follows a Nov. 9 recommendation to that effect by the township planning commission and a Nov. 20 public hearing addressing the request.

During the hearing, Paul Maenner, senior developer with The Waters Senior Living of Minneapolis, discussed the concept for the project.

“Our communities are single-purpose buildings, residential properties in that they contain continual care including independent living, as well as personal care units inclusive of memory care, dementia care units for our residents,” he said.

The Waters so far has expanded beyond Minnesota to Wisconsin and the Pittsburgh area, with a 143-unit complex in Marshall Township scheduled to open in the spring. As for a Peters Township location, Maenner said at the council meeting:

“We believe that we are introducing a community and a project there that complies, and it’s consistent with the goals of the comprehensive land use plan. And we believe that we will be a great addition to the community.”

Arcuri, though, gave several reasons for not being in favor of the development, including a potential for increased traffic – even though it’s considered a low traffic generator, with a projected 45 afternoon peak–hour trips – and his opinion of it as “too big of a footprint on that lot.”

“I don’t mean any disrespect,” he said. “I’m sure that this is a great company, and I’m sure they do great things. I just don’t think that’s what we want in that area, in that district.”

Berquist countered his objections.

“I think it’s a good use of that particular location, and I don’t understand why you think it’s a negative use,” he told Arcuri. “It’s exactly what we said in our comprehensive plan that we needed, which was more residential locations for the elderly.”

Based on a pending traffic analysis, council could opt for a turning lane from Valley Brook onto Friar. In turn, The Waters might be obligated to bear financial responsibility, even if the analysis would determine that such an improvement would be warranted even without the new development.

Maenner and Grant Shiring of PVE, the Franklin Township engineering consultant working with The Waters, asked that in the latter case, construction of a turning lane would not be a condition as the project moves through various stages on its way to possible final approval.

“We’re willing to contribute to that,” Maenner said about the lane, “and we’re willing to continue to make the contribution toward the traffic impact fee that we would normally have with the project, anyway.”