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Concerns about traffic, viability cloud dream of assisted living facility in North Brunswick

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK – More testimony regarding traffic, parking and engineering is necessary before a decision can be made on an assisted living facility planned for Route 27.

Graceland Gardens is the brainchild of Jeanne Selby, the current manager of the North Brunswick Senior Housing Complex at 740 Hermann Road. She and her husband are seeking to construct a 23-unit, 17,530-square-foot assisted living facility with associated site improvements at 1628 Route 27, a property zoned R-2 residential.

Under the counsel of Edward Shamy, the applicant also requested use and bulk variances to relocate the existing 1,590-square-foot dwelling to the front northeast corner of the property during the North Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on Jan. 24.

“It is so needed in the community. North Brunswick currently does not have an assisted living facility. We do have two senior buildings, but there is not something to accommodate those who are disabled or who have any type of health problems,” Selby said.

Selby has been at the senior housing building for 12 years, caring for more than 170 residents who live independently but who may need more assistance than they receive.

“That is what has really propelled me into looking into this assisted living facility. I’ve lived here for 30 years and we really need one for our neighbors and friends,” she said. “This is like a big house. … This is going to be a large number with a number of bedrooms that we’re all going to be living as a community family.”

Selby said an assisted living facility bridges the gap between living independently and moving into a nursing home. In this scenario, seniors ages 80 and older would receive assistance during the day with tasks such as bathing, grooming, dressing, medication management, socialization, etc.

“It’s excellent TLC,” she said.

The purpose is to allow seniors to age in place until death in a comfortable setting that is their own, according to Karen Stratoti, a registered nurse and longterm care administrator who spoke on behalf of the applicant. She said residents would have their own furniture, photos on the walls, kitchenette and access to activities.

“We’re trying to set it up in such a manner that people feel safe, they feel secure, they feel that their needs are paid attention to,” she said. “We’re trying to change the way senior living is done. … We all take care of each other.”

 

However, during the presentation of information, several facts were disputed, such as the number of employees, their shifts and their roles; the ratio of employees to residents; how many seniors would potentially have their vehicles kept on site; and where overflow parking would go.

“The number one thing we’re concerned about, of course, is that should there be overflow, you cannot park on Route 27. It’s a danger to your residents and/or their visitors,” Zoning Board Chairman Mark McGrath said. “So, clearly there needs to be an adequate backup plan. You cannot have them backing up onto 27. That is completely unacceptable.”

Resident Vijay Saple expressed similar concerns, as his property is adjacent to the proposed site.

“People are going to come into our community and start regularly parking,” he said.

Resident Garrick Stoldt agreed, citing traffic, parking, noise, viability of the application and the changing character of the neighborhood as issues that need to be considered by the zoning board members.

“I commend the applicant and their consultant for the compassion they have for the elderly. We, as a society, don’t do enough,” said Stoldt, who is also the chief financial officer of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, while cautioning against the township being limited to a commercial site in a residential neighborhood should the assisted living facility close down, because he said Medicaid is not a profitable business for small facilities.

The intent is also to save the existing home on the property, while moving it closer to Route 27, so that the Selbys and a full-time registered nurse could dwell there.

“At this point in my life, as I become a middle-aged woman, this has become my purpose in that I feel that people that are within Middlesex County will benefit from having such a well thought out facility. As you look through it, you will see we put a piece of ourselves, of each one of us that worked on this, of what someone who is disabled or elderly would enjoy through life, and be a sense of better and have a sense of community and family and not be so lonely anymore if they didn’t have a family,” Selby said.

The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 28 in the municipal courtroom, 710 Hermann Road.

If approved, Graceland Gardens would become New Jersey’s smallest assisted living facility.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

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