A local developer has approached the Bourne Planning Board about creation of a new zoning overlay district in Sagamore. The so-called Senior Care Overlay District would cover approximately 11 acres and be home to an assisted living facility, medical building and senior housing.
Planning board member Robert J. Gendron has proposed an amendment to the town’s current zoning to create a new overlay district that would fit over areas currently zoned for commercial (B2) and residential (R40) use. Mr. Gendron presented the proposed amendment to the Bourne Planning Board during its meeting last Thursday night, March 8. He said the overlay district would create an area that would allow elderly residents to transition from a residence to assisted living as they age, while staying in an area of town to which they have become accustomed.
“I’m a firm believer in the age-in-place model,” he said.
The proposed project would be on land in Sagamore situated between Canal Road and Hunters Brook Road. It would be built in a currently wooded area directly behind the Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds on Meetinghouse Lane, diagonally across from the Friendly’s restaurant on Canal Road. Abutting the proposed site are residences on Pattys Way, as well as across the street on Hunters Brook Road.
Access to the area would be split with entry to the medical building and assisted living facility from Canal Road. People living at the condos would enter via Hunters Brook Road, Mr. Gendron said.
Eliza Z. Cox, attorney with Nutter McClennen & Fish, represented Mr. Gendron at the planning board meeting. Ms. Cox explained that the area the proposed site is on was originally envisioned to be zoned VB, or Village Business. That did not happen and it was eventually zoned B2 and R40.
Ms. Cox said that consideration was given to amending the zoning map to make the area VB, but that would have made the property available to businesses “not appropriate for the area.” Those included takeout restaurants, fast food restaurants, retail stores and gas stations, she said.
“Not what my client envisioned for the site,” she said.
Further discussion led to the idea of an overlay district, which is something already in place in other parts of town. Ms. Cox noted that Bourne has a Water Resource Overlay District, a Sensitive Use Overlay District, and a Marine Center Overlay District. A main purpose of the Senior Care Overlay District would be “to allow the appropriate transition from commercial developments in B2 to nearby residences in R40,” she said.
As envisioned, the development would include a medical building, an assisted living facility and ten duplexes providing 20 age-restricted housing units for people 55 and older. Board member M. Elizabeth Brown suggested that some of the units be made affordable for people who might be working at the assisted living facility or the medical building, and not just for senior citizens. Mr. Gendron said that he has already started discussions with the Bourne Housing Authority about making some of the proposed units affordable.
The project was met with both support and criticism from residents who attended the meeting. Advocates said that Mr. Gendron’s project would address a growing need in Bourne to accommodate an aging population. Among the supporters was board member Steven P. Strojny.
Mr. Strojny cited housing studies done by the Cape Cod Commission which show that currently 20 percent of the residents on Cape Cod are age 65 or older. The same study stated that by 2025 the percentage will increase to 35 percent of the Cape’s population, he said.
“The need for senior housing is there and it is acute,” he said.
He added that the need is great for assisted living. He pointed out that some elderly citizens live in a house that they do not have the financial means or the physical energy to maintain. That, he said, can create an unhealthy living situation. Those same people want to stay here, he said.
“They want to stay close to family and friends, go to the same grocery store, church,” he said.
Residents opposed to the project were primarily concerned about increased traffic to what they said is already a highly congested area. Scott A. Froman lives on Lucia Lane, which connects with Canal Road. Mr. Froman said there were many days last summer when he could not exit his own property because of traffic gridlock with drivers using GPS apps like Waze to get around heavy traffic on the highways.
“Traffic is going to be a nightmare,” he said.
Michael S. Metcalf lives right on Hunters Brook Road and concurred with Mr. Froman’s concerns over traffic tie-ups. He added that the seniors living in the area will require an increased police and fire presence. He pointed out that firefighters at the nearby Sagamore Beach fire department headquarters were dispatched elsewhere in town when a fire ignited in his neighborhood recently.
Mr. Metcalf suggested that there could be other places in town where a project like Mr. Gendron is proposing could be located.
“So it’s kind of a NIMBY kind of thing, not in my back yard,” he said.
Bourne selectman Judith M. Froman questioned whether the town could accommodate another assisted living facility. Ms. Froman cautioned against grabbing onto the idea of assisted living as “the golden egg” when it comes to economic development.
“I’m not convinced that Bourne, Sagamore, can handle the number of people to sustain assisted living,” she said.
Planning board chairman Elmer I. Clegg said he was surprised at Ms. Froman’s comments. He said that it was his understanding that places like Cape Cod Senior Residences in Pocasset and Atria in Falmouth were sold out. Ms. Froman and other audience members said that was not the case.
Kelly Marcimo, director of community relations for Keystone Place, the assisted living facility in Buzzards Bay, agreed with Ms. Froman. Ms. Marcimo commended Mr. Gendron for wanting to bring more economic development to Bourne, but cautioned that it took Keystone Place twice as long as expected to fill its building to its current numbers, which is not sold out.
“”The market isn’t what it looked like when we did our demographic study,” she said.
She added that just because people have the financial means to move to an assisted living facility does not mean they will make that move. Many Cape residents have multiple homes, and choose to live in their permanent home instead of their vacation home. For those people, home care is an option, she said.
“Can the town sustain multiple assisted livings? That’s something to take a long, hard look at,” she said.
Mr. Gendron said that he wanted to hear what people had to say about the project, and thanked residents for their input. He said that his plan is to present a private petition to Annual Town Meeting in May, but hoped that the planning board would vote its support of the measure.
Mr. Clegg surveyed the board members, asking if they would both support and sponsor an article on the Town Meeting warrant. Board members unanimously said they would support the article. The board was more divided on sponsorship with some members saying they wanted to hear more information.