Olentangy Valley News

Senior living

City leaders enthused about planned facilities

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Powell's Planning and Zoning Commission last week approved plans for a retirement community on Sawmill Parkway and heard initial plans for a nearby Alzheimer's disease care facility.

The board unanimously approved the final development plan April 23 for a 130-unit senior living complex, which will sit on slightly more than 5 acres. The development, proposed by the Denver-based Spectrum Retirement Communities, will be located on the east side of Sawmill Parkway between Presidential Parkway and North Hampton Drive.

The site currently is located within Liberty Township, as Powell City Council has tabled legislation that would annex the land until the final development plan was approved by the commission.

Dave Betz, Powell's development director, said the township's Wedgewood Commerce Center Development Plan originally called for the land to be used for an office development. He said it was unlikely developers would pursue that purpose in the near future.

"The office market has been very quiet over the past 10 years in terms of developing new office space," he said.

Betz said he thought a retirement community would have less of an effect on traffic in the area than an office complex and represented a greater need for the township and city.

"(It's) a much-needed use within the city as our population grows older and for those folks who live here and would like to have their parents and grandparents here," he said.

When the commission approved the community's development plan, it also approved two variances. The firm will be allowed to construct a building that is 38 feet tall at its highest point instead of 35, and it will be required to provide only 88 parking spaces instead of 150.

"I think this is a great addition to the community," commission member Richard Fusch said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing this completed."

Michael Longfellow, a vice president at Spectrum Retirement Communities, said the company hopes to get construction on the facility underway as soon as possible.

"We definitely want to start our construction this construction season," he said.

Betz said the Spectrum project, along with other developments in the area, is contingent on the addition of sanitary-sewer capacity. He said city, county and development officials are in discussions about the best way to achieve that and who will pay for it.

While Spectrum is preparing for construction, another developer is in the initial planning stages for an Alzheimer's and dementia care facility on the opposite side of Sawmill Parkway.

Ganzhorn Suites presented a plan to build a 64-unit facility on 5.1 acres southwest of the intersection of Sawmill Parkway and Presidential Parkway.

Previously, developers had sought to build condominiums on the land as an expansion of a complex that sits just north of the site.

Barmi Akbar, chief financial officer of Ganzhorn Suites, said the facility will be for patients with moderate to advanced Alzheimer's disease or dementia. He said the facility would have one employee for every six patients and would feature the newest security technology to keep residents safe.

"We have multiple lines of security," he said. "We're investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology in addition to having the highest staffing levels."

City Planner Rocky Kambo said the city's zoning regulations allow for senior housing facilities within planned commercial districts. Unlike apartment complexes, the city has no unit-per-acre restrictions on senior-living facilities.

"There are no specific regulations in regards to the minimum or maximum densities for this type of facility," he said.

Kambo said the board could set density guidelines for senior housing in the future.

Commission members were uniformly in favor of Ganzhorn's project, which was not subject to a vote last week. Multiple members told Ganzhorn officials to meet with the city's architectural adviser before going any further with the project.

Kambo said it was a happy accident that two elder-care facilities have been proposed in the same area.

"Fortunately, almost serendipitously, we have basically a corridor for assisted and retirement living -- and we didn't even plan for it," he said.

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