OLD BRIDGE – Not only will the proposal to build an assisted living facility specializing in memory care plus studio apartments fulfill a need in the township, it will also transform a blighted structure on Old Matawan Road that has been vacant for more than a decade.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment heard testimony during three separate meetings for the site of 105 Old Matawan Road in the Commercial Neighborhood (CN) Zone, which has consolidated into the Economic Development Opportunity (EDO) Commercial Neighborhood Zone 1. The site previously served as a three-story medical building.
The CN Zone, characterized by small scale retail uses coupled with personal services and general business and medical offices uses, is located along Englishtown Road, Old Matawan Road, Route 35, the intersection of Cliffwood Avenue/Morristown Road, and Matawan Road.
The EDO CN Zone 1 area creates small scale non-residential developments along highly traversed routes that generally cater to the needs of the neighboring residential uses.
Members of the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the proposed assisted living facility plus studio apartments on July 16. Vice Chairman Bruce Walker was the only member to vote against the proposal. He said he believed the proposal would change the outlook of the township.
Peter H. Klouser, attorney for Vision Old Bridge III, LLC, said after hearing feedback from board members, board professionals and the public, the applicant is demolishing the current vacant building and reducing the proposed building from five stories to four stories, eliminating eight studio apartments that were part of the fourth and fifth floors.
Scott Turner, engineer for the applicant, said the reduction in floors increases the square footage of each floor from 6,991 square feet to 8,837 square feet. The height of the building is reduced from 60 feet to 50 feet. Forty-eight parking spaces are proposed with driveway access off Old Matawan Road.
The first floor of the proposed application will remain a common area for an assisted living facility. The second and third floors will consist of 32 studio apartments occupied by the assisted living facility – 24 apartments with one bed and eight apartments with a maximum of two beds. The fourth floor will consist of 16 studio apartments – 12 non-age restricted available to the public for rent and four age-restricted affordable housing units.
Klouser said it is anticipated that the users of the 12 non-age restricted housing units would be spouses, family, children and other caregivers for the assisted living facility.
“Also, the housing would provide an opportunity for someone who is not in need of full assisted living care, but could benefit from on site clinical medical support,” he said.
Allison Coffin, planner for the applicant, said the arrangement of the application is unique.
“Right now there are not a lot of options for a couple who find themselves in a situation and must live separately,” she said. “This provides a solution and allows [couples] to live closer together.”
Coffin said the assisted living facility would provide care services to 32 to 40 patients at a time.
“Currently there is a significant need for these services in Old Bridge, there’s only one other assisted living facility in town,” she said. “The proposed facility is even more unique in that it will specialize in memory care making it only one of its kind in the township.”
Coffin said even if a person who rents a studio apartment – a young professional, a downsizing senior or a returning military veteran – and is not related to anyone in the assisted living facility, the occupancy of the studio apartment would benefit the assisted living facility and offset costs for patients in the facility.
Veena Sawant, township planner, said the proposed project will help the township prepare and plan for the next round of Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) obligations. The township had approved a COAH plan in 2017, which is from 1999 to 2025, with an obligation of 3,109 units.
The township will overall earn 11.32 points credited for the next COAH plan – six credits for the Medicaid beds, one credit each for the four affordable housing age-restricted housing units and rental bonuses associated with age-restricted rental units.
“When we prepare for next round, these [credits] will come very handy for us,” Sawant said.