FAIR HAVEN HOUSING PLAN DRAWS BACKLASH

senior-housing1Developer Kevin Hughes, right, watches Fair Haven’s council meeting as neighbors voiced complaints over his proposal to add age-restricted housing in town. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It’s facing kind of a conundrum, says Mayor Mike Halfacre, of the Fair Haven council’s role in weighing an informal proposal for age-restricted housing in the borough.

On the one hand, the council has been asked to create an overlay district to allow higher densities in a neighborhood just off River Road, a move that might in turn fill a longtime need in town for more housing for the borough’s senior population.

But doing so carries the potential of leaving a bad taste in the mouths of neighbors.

Even though the proposal from builder Kevin Hughes is in what Halfacre called “step A, minus one,” some neighbors are already hoping to derail it. At a Tuesday morning meeting specifically relocated to the borough’s youth and senior center in order to accommodate the older population, area residents obliged with a solid half-hour of bristling to the council.

senior-housing-plansA set of plans on file at borough hall show 10 cottage-style homes to be built on Colonial Court. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Hughes hasn’t made a formal application build approximately 10 cottage-style homes on the dead-end Colonial Court, between Hance Avenue and Smith Street. But it’s a topic at the forefront, chiefly because it would require an amendment to the residential zone. And “this has to start somewhere,” Halfacre said.

That particular point doesn’t sit well with Pat and Ralph Finaldi, who live on Hance.

“I moved into a zone where I though there was going to be neighbors with kids and things like that,” Ralph Finaldi said, making sure to point out that he has no issue with seniors. It’s just that, “I didn’t move into a place where, gee, there’s going to be six, eight, 10 houses right next to me. ”

Brian Lonergan, who lives close to Colonial Court and once served on the borough planning board, voiced concern that the public hasn’t been kept informed on the discussions between Hughes and borough officials. Although Halfacre said notices will be sent out to nearby residents when any formal meeting takes place. Lonergan, speaking from his experience on the planning board, said the public needs to be involved from the beginning so all the facts are out in the open.

“Once these things start rolling, then they have a life of their own,” Lonergan said.

The problem, though, is that there isn’t a whole lot of information to put out there, Halfacre said.

Hughes, of Fair Haven, hasn’t done much more than feel out borough officials to determine if he should proceed. He’s submitted some sketches, which call for 10 small, cottage-style homes on Colonial Court, and would be strictly for seniors — the age threshold hasn’t yet been determined. Wetlands and traffic issues that objectors raised will be known if and when a feasibility study is conducted, Halfacre said.

He tried to make these points to the feisty crowd on Tuesday, in order to quell its initial concerns.

“This is a multi-month, multi-meeting process. Where we’re at is the concept of the plan, not the details of the plan,” Halfacre said. “It’s not fair to abort the plan just because someone doesn’t like the concept. As a concept, we owe it to all the residents of town to explore it.”

At least 20 people who signed a petition don’t even want to explore the idea. Chuck Cocuzza, of Colonial Court, flashed the petition to the council when it was his turn to air his grievance.

“I feel this is out of character for the neighborhood,” he said. “Why don’t you move on? Save the time and money. Everybody is against it.”

But Halfacre isn’t going to hit the brakes. Not yet.

In an apparent effort to lighten the vibe in the room on Tuesday, he reiterated the council’s role in matters like this.

“We’re exploring a process, and part of that exploration is to sit here and have people yell at us,” he said. “We’re used to that.”

The council’s next meeting is 7p on June 28 at borough hall.