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New Assisted Living Facility Given Go Ahead

Developers say location will not be a nursing home

An assisted living facility at Fairmount Avenue and Edison Road could now be a reality, as the zoning board of adjustment voted Wednesday to approve a variance request made by Zoccoli Associates.

Stephen Sinisi, attorney for the applicant, opened with the latest iteration of the proposed plan. Following the and the suggestions of the board, the applicant’s project engineer, James Brown, showed a ‘shaved’ down version of the proposed building, which would actually eliminate the need for one of the requested variances. 

A brief discussion ensued about moving the portico entrance to one side of the building, but this led to more questions about the potential for disturbing the local residents, something everyone was attempting to avoid with this proposal.

Sinisi presented his final witness, Brenda Bacon. Bacon is the President and CEO of Brandywine Senior Living, an operator with 10 facilities in NJ, as well as five other states. Bacon was being presented as an expert on the requirements for this type of facility, since there is not yet an operator attached.

One key question was the difference between an assisted living facility, and a nursing home. Bacon explained that where a nursing home is for the 24 hour critical care of patients in need. Assisted living is a residence, providing a more private and independent living situation. Similar facilities to that being proposed, she said, usually are staffed in three shifts; the first is the peak shift, where some 35 or so may be present.  The second shift would be a staff of 10 or so, while the overnight would only require a staff of 5 or 6.  She also went on to say that the proposed parking would be perfectly adequate.

Bacon explained that there is a heavy regulatory process an operator will have to go through, beginning with the application for a Certificate of Need to the Department of Heath and Human Services. This, and every subsequent step, would go on to ensure that the operation of the facility would meet all the necessary requirements. As well, she noted, ongoing reviews of the facility will occur at least annually, to assure compliance.

Addressing another previous board concern, Bacon stated that Brandywine’s facilities all have contracts with private ambulance services. These would be utilized for the majority of the facilities needs, unless a serious emergency such as a cardiac arrest might create the need to call the local 911. 

Sinisi made his closing statements, arguing that the 16 written exhibits and testimony from four witnesses had provided more than adequate proof that the applicant would meet any reasonable request, and proved that an assisted living facility fell under the Municipal Land Use Law for ‘inherently beneficial’ use.

Board Chairman Charles Rabolli addressed concerns about the proposed location of the dumpster, as well as internal layout issues with regards to location of the kitchen and laundry in relation to the loading dock area. The seven board members present unanimously approved.

The next meeting of the Zoning Board of Adjustment is scheduled for August 3.

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