NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> At Wednesday's meeting of the Newtown Borough Council, developer Allan Smith floated the idea of swapping out three residential condominiums for a higher end assisted living facility at his planned Steeple View Phase Two redevelopment project.

The proposal, he said, would address concerns raised by the borough's planning commission and a member of council during a preliminary plan review and subsequent approval in August.

Those concerns centered on the height of four multi-story residential condominiums buildings planned for the southern end of the project site, which stretches from Centre Avenue to the southern boundary of the former Stockburger property.

Smith said by swapping out three of the buildings for the assisted living facility he could lower the height of the buildings, reduced the overall square footage, lessen the traffic impact while keeping the entire project financially viable.

Assisted living is "a use where 95 percent of the residents don't have a car so we get rid of a ton of cars and with that we get rid of a ton of traffic," he said.

In addition, he said the change would allow the project to move forward more quickly, "which is important to me because I'm living under the sword of Damocles on interest rates. I'm always afraid they're going to bump and the whole thing falls apart."

Smith said after receiving preliminary plan approval from council he was contacted by LCB Senior Living in Boston which suggested the idea of an assisted living facility after reading about the project in media coverage.

"This is an opportunity to provide a complimentary use for the project," said Smith, with the residents living at the assisted living facility taking advantage of the walkability of the surrounding project and nearby downtown.

The idea, however, is not without its hurdles, including the fact that the Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning does not include assisted living facilities. The facility would require a variance from the zoning hearing board.

"I said to you at the preliminary plan hearing if I could figure out a way to lower the heights of the buildings and pay for all the stuff we're doing I would," said Smith. "When this came along I figured it was worth running up the flagpole."

Smith said if council likes the concept, he would ask that it consider providing a favorable recommendation to the zoning hearing board with regard to any variance request.

Borough solicitor William Bolla said council would first need to see the variance application before it could take a position.

Council President Bob Walker noted that the change would have an effect on the financial impact the project will have on the borough, both in terms of property tax revenue and earned income tax.

Overall, the councilors appeared receptive to the concept, but took no definitive action and made no guarantees.

"On the surface it looks good. It solves some of the problems that I've had with it," said Councilor Bob King.

Walker said as the next step he'd like to hear from LCB Senior Living. He also added further discussion of the idea to the agenda of the council’s November work session.

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