Baywater Properties is planning to create housing for adults with special needs in conjunction with its downtown development project. Based on an informal presentation delivered at the Jan. 5 Planning & Zoning meeting, the two building facility would be located at 26 East Lane, off of Old Kings Highway North.
According to Baywater founder David Genovese, the project would consist of 12 affordable units and could be eligible for bonus housing equivalency points depending on the income level of the incoming residents.
Baywater is currently working on a project that would redevelop much of downtown Darien in the area of Post Road and Corbin Drive, and will be required to provide some affordable housing. Darien is currently subject to state statute 8-30g, which allows developers to bypass the Planning & Zoning Commission if their project includes a certain amount of affordable housing.
Genovese explained that the East Lane development reverses some of the common conventions of 8-30g developments; rather than providing the bare minimum of affordable units in a dense building, the project would be 100 percent affordable, with a focus on special needs adults at a lower income level.
Another one of the project goals is to continue diversifying the town’s housing stock, coinciding with the construction of senior affordable housing at Old Town Hall Homes and The Heights at Darien, another recently completed affordable housing complex.
“We really don’t know exactly where we’re going with Corbin just yet but we know we’re going to have some obligation to provide affordable housing and we like this idea.” Genovese said. “We really just wanted to get the idea out in front of you and get you thinking about it.”
Katie Banzhaf, Executive Director of STAR Inc. spoke to the commission about how similar facilities for adults with developmental disabilities operate. STAR currently manages The Cottage in Darien, another adult-living facility that opened in 2009 and is owned by the town.
Banzhaf said the nonprofit currently operates 12 group homes, supporting over 84 people. STAR also provides support for individuals living in their own apartments, including transportation, cooking, and medical oversight, based on their level of need. For some, that means 20 hours of support throughout the week, while others may need around the clock care.
“We provide the level of support that the individual needs; primarily to be safe and to learn and to grow,” Banzhaf said. “Under this model with one home, we would look at the six individuals and we would always cater to the person who has the most need. So if there’s one person in that house that requires 24-hour staffing, there is 24-hour staffing at the site at all times.
Group homes are only made available to those found to have a high level of need as designated by the Department of Developmental Services. Banzhaf told the commission that populations range from two to seven individuals in STAR’s homes.
The commissioners were largely supportive of the preliminary plan, but did raise questions about how the incoming units would fit into existing affordable housing regulations.
“I really love the way you think outside the box,” Chairman Susan Cameron said. “I love the diversity in housing we’re getting in Darien.”
A New Canaan resident in attendance at the meeting expressed safety concerns about the development’s location, particularly its proximity to Old Kings Highway North and I-95. She said that her parents live next door to the proposed development and their family has forbidden their children from crossing the road, after an incident involving her 16-year-old son. Conversely, the parent of an adult living The Cottage said that residents are frequently accompanied, which helps to mediate safety concerns.
Another neighbor abutting the property on Old Kings Highway questioned the density of the development and long term funding and maintenance for the group home. As the parent of a special needs child the neighbor was curious about the plan, but asked that the details be further fleshed out.