Pattye Benson

Community Matters

How many assisted living facilities does Tredyffrin Township need/want? Is the idea “build it and they will come”?

Another proposal for an assisted living facility in Tredyffrin Township is on the Planning Commission agenda for Thursday, December 20 – this time its Russell Road in Paoli.

My first thought is how many assisted living facilities is enough? For many years, the township only had one – Highgate at Paoli Point with 80 apartments.

Then came the community battle over the long-abandoned Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Avenue in Berwyn and the subsequent construction of Daylesford Crossing, a 3-story assisted living facility by Sage Senior Living which opened August 2015 with 93 apartments.

The approval for the Daylesford Crossing project was a long, drawn out process in 2012 which required a text amendment to zoning to permit senior living facilities as a by-right use in C-1 (commercial) zoning. It was argued at the time that the zoning change to C-1 was ‘spot-zoning’ to accommodate this specific project. Others, including myself, questioned what this change would mean for future C-1 development in the township.

Meeting with success with the development of Daylesford Crossing, Sage Senior Living is building Echo Lake at Atwater in the western part of Tredyffrin Township. Echo Lake’s senior living is a massive 3-story, 250-apartment property with 160 independent living apartments and 90 assisted living and memory care apartments, set to open in January 2019.

And then we have under construction in Devon (close to Whole Foods) Brightview Senior Living, the gigantic 450+ ft. long, five-story, 55-ft high building totally 181,000 sq. ft. on E. Conestoga. (As a reference point, Daylesford Crossing on Lancaster Ave. is approx. 80,000 sq. ft.). When completed Brightview Senior Living will have 196 beds.

During the last six years, the township has grown from one assisted living facility (Highgate at Paoli Pointe) to four – Daylesford Crossing, Echo Lake and under construction Brightview. Developers are flocking to the township with their assisted living proposals. Earlier this year, the township Planning Commissioners reviewed an assisted living facility proposal for the Aquilante Catering property on Cassatt Road. The 300 bed project was met with an organized effort of neighbor opposition and the plans appear to have been withdrawn.

Now, this coming week finds another proposed assisted living facility in front of the Planning Commission. Solera Senior Living has submitted a preliminary land development project for Russell Road in Paoli. Zoned C-1, the applicant wishes to demolish two existing office buildings (Synthes), consolidate three separate parcels and construct a 3-story, 116 bed assisted living facility. For those that may not know – Russell Road connects to Maple and Old Lancaster Avenues. Another developer seeking to build an assisted living facility in the township as a ‘by-right’ use in C-1 zoning.

Unlike the location of Daylesford Crossing on 4-lane Lancaster Avenue, Russell Road is a narrow residential street in Paoli. The proposed 3-story assisted living facility on Russell Road would be at higher elevation than the residential homes which sit in the valley below the planned construction.

Russell Road has no curbing and its resident’s battle major stormwater issues every time its rains – I cannot imagine how a large assisted living building and the associated additional stormwater runoff could possibly be managed. In addition to stormwater problems, placing a massive assisted living facility in the middle of this community is going to threaten the quality of life for the neighborhood, change its character and increase traffic.

There are many reasons that I do not support an assisted living facility at the Russell Road location but an obvious question should also be asked – does the township really need another one of these facilities? Daylesford Crossing is not fully occupied and it opened over 3 years ago – plus Echo Lake opens next month and presumably Brightview sometime in 2019. When is enough – enough? Or is it a case of “build it, and they will come”?

Another factor that needs to be considered with these proposed redevelopment projects (and sadly one that is often overlooked) is our local volunteer fire companies and emergency responders. Already burdened with staffing and funding needs, how are they supposed to keep up the increased demands of these assisted living facilities? Is Paoli Fire Company and Berwyn Fire Company notified when these types of land development proposals are under consideration?

Here’s the agenda for the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, December 20, 7 PM at the township building.

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  1. I don’t know how many we need. Baby boomers age 54 to 75 are the reason for the boom. In the next 25 years, who knows how many senior citizens will opt for this type of living arrangement. They are very very expensive, over $100,000 per year and the price increases regularly. How many elderly people can afford to pay what they cost? It’s anyone’s guess.

    1. Because of the C-1 zoning which includes by-right assisted living developers are coming to Tredyffrin Twp. Without this kind of zoning allowance, other areas are not seeing the empty office buildings transitioning to senior living. If we had a crystal ball, we would be able to say whether these places will be filled or not — I think its interesting that 3 years since opening, there are apartments available at Daylesford Crossing. And now with two large properties set to open (Echo Lake and Brightview) that are 2-1/2 times the capacity of Daylesford Crossing, are they going to be filled? Or will these assisted living facilities become too expensive to operate (or seniors able to afford!) and become the ’empty office buildings’ that we now have within a decade?

      Some suggest that because these assisted living facilities do not add burden to the school district so that makes it OK. I will continue to argue that our volunteer fire department will not be able to keep up with the increased demand on their services! At a minimum, they should be part of the decision-making process when it comes large development projects.

      1. Daylesford Crossing is almost always full and they filled up pretty quickly. At least it seemed pretty quick to me. I know because I’ve been trying to get my aunt to move in and have been in touch with them since not too long after they opened. The apartment I’m looking at for her costs just under $6000 a month including some help with getting dressed and such.
        the sales person said that usually they have from 0 to five apartments to pick from. I have them call me every time they have a studio.
        I haven’t looked at Brightview yet. I’m Ok with the location, but I don’t think she’ll like it. I haven’t looked at Echo Lake either. It think it’s mostly retirement apartments, like 55+. I know it’s not all assisted living.

        1. Thanks for your comment. I was told by a friend who son works at Daylesford Crossing that the facility has never been to capacity, interesting. I called and was told that there were apartments available, not sure how many or what size. $6,000/mo seems very high, I don’t know how the average person could afford it.

          Oh, and Echo Lake will have 250 apartments — 93 of those will be assisted living.

  2. I think there needs to be a mandatory assessment to support the local emergency services. To be profitable these facilities may not have a large medical staff and are quick to dial 911. Funding local emergency services needs to be baked into the approval process. In fact, I think there should be an endowment payment made before they break ground plus annual fees per bed.

  3. It would be nice if this township (and others throughout the main line) started adding affordable housing for the “normal” folk! It’s nice to be able to afford this area and have children go to the fine schools but for those who grew up around here and would like to stay around here it is almost impossible to find affordable housing and it is getting worse!! What made the main line special to me, is that we had all types of individuals, families living side by side enjoying life!! My has that changed…so sad!!!!

  4. See the New York Times, Sunday, December 16 Business Section Page 5 “Assisted Living Strains to Keep Up With Safety.” This is about return on investment, not meeting a need. According to a survey by the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care, “Senior housing investors earned nearly 15 per cent annual returns over the last five years, higher than those for apartment, hotel, office and retail properties…” Plus, their business model externalizes the costs of police, fire and ambulance services to local governments.

  5. Whatever the Planning Commission comes up with it won’t be any good for the average person. They subscribe to “Smart Growth,” a failed (for over 40 years) Soviet-style Socialist planning tool intended to control us by using command, control, and confiscation of our freedoms.

    1. In my experience, I have found the Planning Commissioners to listen and to be thoughtful in their decisions. The problem is they have to be governed by the township zoning — of course, there is a caveat in that if the applicant needs waivers to make his/her project feasible, the PC does not have to approve them.

  6. Pattye, you bring up a great point… Daylesford Crossing is walkable to the new proposed location, however it’s never been filled to capacity. The Brightview project will be completed soon and that is going to be huge offering almost 200 apartments. If we are not at capacity and seeing the real need for another one of these businesses, then why should it get built there? Solera only has one property currently operational and it’s one that they did not built. They bought it from someone else. How do we know that their company is solid? What if they are unable to fill their building? They what? Do we look at a massive empty building that did not fit into this environment to begin with.

    I also echo the thoughts of those who have posted about the high costs of these facilities… is there really enough customers out there? and have we not already enough options in Tredyffrin.

    The topic of the strain on our local emergency and response units. It’s been shared with these forces that the strain is already there. Is the township really prepared to add to that?

  7. There is an alternative for seniors to stay and age in their own homes.
    The institutional style living is expensive and breeds disease like influenza and other communicable diseases.
    The for profit models do not have registered nurses, physicians, specialist , dentist, podiatrist in house.
    There is high stress on staff and minimal staff.
    Unless I have to be placed in a small box I would rather hire help and take UBER, have home visits and delivery of food and medication.
    The assisted living model is very expensive for what you get.

  8. Part of the reason Daylesford Crossing is that it does not have independent living while the other 2 will have that
    Many 70+ people are not ready for assisted living yet .They are ready to downsize but don’t want to go to an apt and then then move again to assisted leaving.
    Had the Acquilante property been allowed it would go from independent to skilled
    The only one with skilled nursing is Dunwoody that is close.
    I agree the fire dept and police need to be enlarged. Right now the fire dept and ambulance crew are stretched very thin.

  9. The developer of Daylesford Crossing told the Board of Supervisors that his market research showed that the area could support only one more ALF and that would be Daylesford Crossing. He explained that changing the zoning wouldn’t result in more developments of these properties because it wouldn’t be economically feasible. The Board voted to change the zoning and now here we are. Can the area support it? I don’t want to be the experiment!

    1. Isn’t it interesting that developer of Daylesford Crossing is the same developer for Echo Lake. Wonder why they thought the area could only support one ALF (Daylesford) and yet they develop Echo Lake, a massive 3-story, 250-apartment property with 160 independent living apartments and 90 assisted living and memory care apartments, set to open in January 2019. I swear that they say whatever they think will stick — they needed to get the text amendment to C-1 zoning to allow ALF and said it wouldn’t affect other locations (because the area couldn’t support more ALFs) yet turnaround immediately and build another in the township!

  10. Well the Daylesford facility certainly looks better than what was there – isn’t that what we want in our township – improvements in properties, esp poorly maintained commercial buildings? The alternative is a slow, gradual deterioration of properties which spread to others. I’d rather live in a twsp that investors want to put money into than one that they don’t. And there are plenty of towns in our area which are suffering from slow long term decay.

    As to the stressed fire departments – I am friends with a couple members of a local fire company and the % of township residents who make an annual donation to the local fire companies is embarrassingly and disturbingly low for such a well off township. Has everyone who posts on these bogs made an annual donation to the Paoli and Berwyn Fire Depts? If not, why not?

    As for the police, well, we have plenty of them – ever notice almost every routine traffic stop you drive by has at least 2 police cars on the scene?

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