Planning Board Approves Assisted-Living Facility

The move came despite pending litigation seeking to stop the project.


The Montclair Planning Board voted Monday night to sign off on the construction of an assisted-living facility on the privately owned Church Street Parking Lot, despite the fact that litigation seeking to halt the project is pending, according to The Montclair Times.

Developer and landlord Dick Grabowsky has filed a legal appeal opposing the project, the paper said.

Grabowsky claims that former Mayor Jerry Fried and former Councilor Nick Lewis should never have approved the project in the first place since both are members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, next door to the parking lot where the $40 million facility is due to be built.

According to Grabowsky, the congregation would gain from the project's construction since the facility's residents may become church members.

In May, making an assisted-living facility an allowable project on Church Street.

At the time, the council voted in favor of an amendment that would allow an 88-bed assisted-living facility to be included in the plans of the developer—Fountain Square Properties.

That vote came after David Faeder, a managing partner at Fountain Square, made a strong case for the facility.

He said the project—which would result in 100 permanent jobs—would boast a $3.6 million payroll and give preference to Montclair-based workers.

Faeder also estimated that the plan would bring in $304,000 a year in Payment In Lieu of Taxes money.

"This will allow seniors and their family members to remain in town and participate in all the great things going on in town," he said.

But many, in addition to Grabowsky, have expressed concerns about the project.

Luther Flurry, executive director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District (BID), has distributed a letter from the group's executive committee.

"The leadership of the BID would welcome assisted living into parts of the district, but has reservations about assisted living in the heart of the district, abutting the South Park Street project," Flurry said. "Our core concerns about assisted living are about economic impact within the district and impacts on the vibrancy of a renovated South Park."

What do you think of the project? Let us know in the comments section below.

thewayitis September 11, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Also, we have 30% of our town population at or below the poverty line. What about a job training center for local residents? What about something that would actually begin to lift our residents who currently live here into a better life? It could be green /environmental job training? I don't know...something that addresses the core of some the issues in town like poverty, unemployment, crime, etc. What about an open air weekly street vendor market? Or an artist work / live space with reasonable rents? With gallery space at street level? Or workshops offered to local kids/students, etc? Ya know, to keep the young people in town, or people who create things, that has a hope of revitalizing. None of what is being planned or done here makes any sense to me at all and seems to be short sighted and pre determined by powers which apparently cannot be changed or influenced. Can the current town council stop this? If they get enough resistance from the town/people, can this be reversed?
thewayitis September 11, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Sorry, correction 30% of 4th ward, not town.
scarletxknight September 12, 2012 at 02:40 AM
thewayitis....so many good points. you should go to one of the meetings! echoing what has already been said, the location is a horrible choice but.... "According to Grabowsky, the congregation would gain from the project's construction since the facility's residents may become church members" call me whatever but that doesnt make sense. a SENIOR who more than likely has grounded themselves into whatever faith (or lack of) will suddenly start attending a church (which chances are isnt their faith) just because its next door? the uucm is a wonderful place but i doubt all the seniors are going to go just because its convenient. christ church is right across the way so i guess they will be gaining as well if this logic holds true? just not a good idea for a location.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 01:38 PM
scarletxknight: Glad to hear there's agreement on this, and thank you. Just for the record, I've been in town only two years and have a 5 yr old, so my life has been quite full, hectic, with that and work, and settling in, etc. It's taken me a while to get a handle on local politics, the who/what/where of it all---a slow learning process for me. I wish I could attend some of these meetings. So far, they occur at times where I can't go as 7pm or 7:30pm is just right in dinner/bedtime at my house. I just checked the meeting schedule again and it seems that's going to be the norm going forward, ie weeknights at 7 or 7:30pm. I'm trying hard to find a way to be involved, to add my voice somewhere it might be heard by the planning board and town council. Do you think letters to both would have any effect? I'm going to try that (ahead of the next scheduled meetings) and I wonder if others would do the same, ie. strength in numbers. Basically, I'm trying to do something to help and contribute in very tiny amounts of time. I'm not the one to just complain and do nothing, and am asking here what you all think would be most effective, since time is hard to come by but, I don't want to use that to be an excuse not to speak up at all. Cont'd.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
D-Zone: Are you saying that there are other ALF's in town that have closed recently? If yes, do you know why they closed? scarletxknight: I find that suggestion as a reason (residents will attend the church next door) to be almost insane. That is not a valid reason to build an ALF and also there is no way to predict who among the residents would attend church ahead of time. Oh, dear. From my experience visiting family members in a variety of ALFs nursing homes, etc, they have always been located in areas with much more green space around, where the grounds are spacious, quiet, and peaceful. Our visits have usually lasted up to one hour and always took place in our elder's room. Once we joined her at their lunch room. Most residents there had various sensitivities to loud noise, lights, with a variety of conditions that meant they need a quiet peaceful place. They usually never went out for visits. They walked (those who could), or were wheeled outside to enjoy fresh air daily, or as they could. When we visited, we would often bring flowers or a small box of chocolates or fruit, which we usually brought with us, not brought near the ALF. Parking was ample. Sadly, our relative was barely able to speak or be up much in the end, so the visits got shorter and shorter...Residents of ALF's depending on their physical state, need good care, compassion, safety, dignity--all that stuff. Cont'd.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 01:55 PM
The ALF on a busy street, in a business district, as proposed makes no sense. It also seems like it wouldn't be affordable to most or give the town a "revitalization" at that location, plus the concern some have mentioned re ambulances, etc. It appears different to me than say senior housing for folks who are relatively healthy, mobile, and interested in living downtown in independent apartments. Something like that could revitalize if they're going to shop and eat locally but most seniors I know are on very fixed incomes. I don't know anyone who could afford 5-10K a month. Oh, boy. Sorry to go on. I want to do something to change this! It seems this lack of reasonable planning decisions are systemic here. I keep looking for the place where we the residents, can have some influence for the better. Where is the "this is what the town needs" aspect of things?We just voted for a new council...Do they respond to email contact? Thanks and sorry for length.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
D-Zone first forgive me if I'm double posting..I made a comment to reply to you, but it got lost somehow...anyway--thank you. And wow, really? They block emails? I wasn't aware that there was a qualification (disability-money) as you mention that could get a resident kicked out. That's horrible if that's the case. Any resident/person, senior or not, could a. run out of money, or b. become disabled. I would think someone who is very wealthy wouldn't choose an ALF, as they could have extended home health care/aides. Or if they were very wealthy and needed a full time care facility, wouldn't they choose a place that's more peaceful and not in the middle of downtown? If this is for people who need help with day to day activities (feeding, bathing, etc.) they're unlikely to be out and about walking Church Street. If its for active, healthy seniors, yes, the CCRC model makes more sense. But from most seniors I know they have fixed incomes who would rather stay home and die than end up in an ALF. Most from middle class or lower income levels move in with family, or they hire home health aides when possible, or eventually go to full time nursing homes when they need that 24/7 medical attention. Dementia and Alzheimer patients usually are in separate wings as they need a different level of security and care. I'm now confused as to what kind of ALF this is. Oh, boy on the meeting schedule which I don't see myself being able to do in the near immediate future. Sad.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 05:13 PM
D-Zone: "Yes, ALF is very confusing and developers/management (including politicians) rely on people's ignorance to strive financially. Low income would be denied immediately (limited income) and Medicaid is not accepted." Thanks for clarifying. Ok, then it's even worse than I thought, because then this ALF is not being built to serve the entire senior population from all income levels. If from the outset no low income, no Medicare--then it is only for the very wealthy. And I just highly doubt the very wealthy choosing this as their option, but say they did. Still, something is being built in a place that makes no sense, AND is not intended to serve a portion of local residents. So, it's another building for the super wealthy, while our town grapples with poverty, crime, etc. Outrageous. I will check out those places you mention. Thanks.
roscoe September 12, 2012 at 06:00 PM
When this issue first came to light, I read several articles by residents of other communities with ALFs that serve a similar population as the facility being proposed for Montclair. I suppose I should say the facility that is flying through approvals while flying under the radar of many residents. Something that several articles mention is the very significant increase in emergency calls and associated costs to the town. One town's 911 calls increased by 50% and the costs placed a severe financial burden on the town. Their ALF didn't have doctors on staff, just nurses and other attendants. So whenever a resident complained of shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains, etc the ALF called 911 to take the resident to the ER. So costs for ambulance service, police escort, etc. I believe I remember reading that the Montclair facility would be similar and would not be a medical facility that could treat potential medical emergencies. So aside from the location, which seems impractical and ill-conceived for so many reasons, I doubt that the previous TC or the Towm Manager considered these cost increases in their calculations when they decided that an ALF would help raise revenues for the town. Contd...
roscoe September 12, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Contd: So 1.) revitalize the area: no. Vital isn't a word typically associated with facilities for dementia patients. 2.). Increase net revenues for the town: unless the PILOT agreement specifically requires the ALF to reimburse emergency expenses, I don't see how this is a net gain. Especially given the high cost of our PD and the very real need for them to be in high-crime areas. 3.). No one else wants to build on the lot and we need to build something. How hard have we really looked? Hackensack has bought Mountainside hospital. They may be interested Ina nearby facility for support services or medical related office building. And I have been told MSU is looking to build a new building somewhere on rte 46. They'd rather be in Montclair. Maybe this should be revisited. We elected our new Mayor in part because of his expertise as a developer. I hope he sees the absolute folly of this project and steps in to stop it. We need a better solution.
ALICE KINKEAD September 12, 2012 at 06:10 PM
It might be nice for seniors who have lived in Montclair, to still remain here because there is assisted living. It may help the businesses downtown do better, fill the empty storefronts with new business. The ALF will bring visitors that will spend and have meals and enable downtown Montclair to thrive again. It will have it's own parking facility, and maybe it will facilitate a new parking garage built downtown as well. I don't see it as bad for Montclair at all.
roscoe September 12, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Alice, given the number of residents who move out of Montclair after their kids graduate from high school, I'd say this is a somewhat limited market. Then you have older but still healthy retirees who move away because they're now on a fixed income and Montclair has escalating taxes. So even fewer people. Then you look to the number of elderly people who need the kind of care this ALF is offering, which seems to be focused on the different stages of dementia. And then this much smaller group has to be very wealthy if they can afford to pay $100k/year for an indeterminate length of time. Also, Montclair isn't surrounded by extremely wealthy towns. White Plains, NY, which has the other facility owned by the Stolar people, is close to some of the wealthiest towns in the country: Greenwich, Rye, Scarsdale, etc. Families from Millburn and summit might easily choose the West Orange facility.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 06:35 PM
roscoe: All valid, good points. I also agree an MSU or other such type thing makes infinitely more sense in that location. Further, saw a post http://www.baristanet.com/2012/09/remembrance-security-dominate-september-11-montclair-council-meeting/ --which says that our 9-1-1 system is currently in need of rebuilding/redoing and I guess is being discussed at the next TC meeting. An increase or demand on the system absolutely should be considered, not to mention, the speed ambulances need to go, the siren/noise factor. How will that affect people dining/shopping/etc if there's emergency vehicles constantly going by?ALICE: If the residents of the ALF are primarily bed -ridden, or in wheel chairs, or suffering from dementia or Alzheimers---they're not going to be strolling around, shopping. My understanding this is for wealthy seniors only, not accepting Medicare, no low income, so it's not being built for the entire town to be able to use if its $5k-10K monthly. I also don't think the wealthy would choose this as an option. I've commented (and others have) addressing much of what you say here above and on the other post on this topic. No one seems to opposed to the idea of a well run ALF in general, in Montclair. But the location proposed makes no sense at all.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Another perspective: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/01/health/shrinking-the-nursing-home-until-it-feels-like-a-home.html?pagewanted=all
Rhoda Kriesel September 12, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I think a HUGE error in this discussion is that this facility is a residence for pre-dementia and dementia patients. They will not be capable of patronizing local businesses. That is an entirely different business strategy than what is usually defined as assisted living. AL simply means residents need some help with dressing, bathing, sometimes eating/cooking, and getting around – because of physical issues, not mental. These residents might be able to be enjoy the benefits of Church Street, with someone helping when needed. The public was given the impression that this facility was to be limited to true assisted living – not to be a facility for dementia patients. There are already several of those in Montclair. When the physical issues become greater, primarily illness – perhaps coupled with dementia issues – nursing home care is needed. And the residents’ needs would be way beyond typical AL help. So the developer needs to better define exactly what this facility is the many more maintenance issues [medical waste, etc.] plus parking, employee population vs visitor population, than what has been described so far. When can the public get a complete, straightforward presentation of strategy, target markets, layouts, parking, maintenance, special handling needs, special access needs [ambulances and hearses], etc. We don’t have that as yet – so how can a decision be made and correct management of the project happen???
roscoe September 12, 2012 at 07:09 PM
I'd like to see a detailed description of the target residents. At the PB meetings I've attended, Brian Stolar referred to a floor that would be reserved for people with more advanced dementia but who aren't ready to go into a nursing home. He also said there would be a floor for people with less dementia, who are ambulatory, etc. he definitely referred to a progression in terms of dementia. I'd like to see the specifics in writing.
thewayitis September 12, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Rhoda, that makes so much sense and explains so much! I've been trying to understand the exact nature of what is proposed. Thank you for shedding light!
scarletxknight September 13, 2012 at 02:47 AM
i must say that this is the most polite and respectful thread ive ever seen on patch about a town issue. =)
Shelley Emling (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Well done everyone!
montclairgurl September 13, 2012 at 11:35 AM
This is absolutely the wrong location. ALF's are not to be confused with senior housing complexes. Go visit one. Most residents, even if "ambulatory" will need some assistance with walking. When someone becomes ill - dizzy, spike in blood pressure, fever, any medical complaint - an ambulance is called. Visitors strolling and shopping is a myth. A large number do patients will have few or no visitors, those that do are not likely to either pick up a family member for a home visit or to stay for a bit. These are people who for the most part need assistance walking, eating, bathing and getting dressed. They like the comfort of the routine and speaking from experience, dining out with a loved one who has trouble walking, reading a menu and no longer understands menus is not an experience to repeat once you've tried it and have had 3 meals sent back in favor of ice cream. There will be increased traffic from trucks delivering laundry, food and other supplies as well as ambulances. The patients inside are not going to be shopping at Urban Outfitters and lunching at Raymond's, and the overwhelming majority of staff at ALF's earn very low wages. That's not to say Montclair shouldn't have an ALF, it's just that this location is not going to benefit at all from an ALF and will most likely suffer as a result. A facility like this is not a cornerstone for a thriving and vibrant commercial district.
thewayitis September 13, 2012 at 12:39 PM
montclairgurl: Well said, and agreed on everything. Question for folks posting and also to Shelly: Do you think it's a good idea to print and mail these threads on the ALF and send to the TC and Planning Board? Also, Shelly, it seems several people have voiced concerns, repeatedly, in person at meetings, and via email, and they haven't received replies. Can do you a do a follow up story and ask TC and or Planning Board why they don't reply to residents? In addition to the many questions that seem to be swirling about the kind of ALF, as well, no matter what kind of ALF, the inappropriateness of this location for any ALF because of all the above? And also can we get an answer to the great questions posed and raised by Rhoda and Roscoe and others here? I'll be happy to print and mail this thread along with a letter to TC and Planning Board as soon as I can, but that might not be until next week. Thanks, everyone.
montclairgurl September 13, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I have voiced concerns repeatedly via email and phone to past and current council members. I get the sense that it's a done deal. But it certainly cannot hurt to have as many as people as possible voice their concerns.
thewayitis September 13, 2012 at 02:19 PM
montclairgurl: Did they respond?
montclairgurl September 13, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Old TC, no. Current responded with a standard "legal dispute, cannot discuss".
thewayitis September 13, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Montclairgurl: Thank you. D-Zone: I understand. I still plan to write a letter and will be signing with my real name. I realize from everything you're all saying, that it may be too late. However, if folks here are willing and able to send their own emails or letters using their real names to current TC and Planing Board, perhaps it is a good thing to do anyway? We'll have gone on the record that way. I feel like on this, and so many other issues, that if we throw in the towel (which believe me, I'm almost ready to throw hands up and say, never mind trying to fight this insanity). Perhaps all this explains why so few in town vote which I also have a a hard time grasping... if so many feel their voices don't matter and don't count year after year, and they feel defeated and then apathy and inertia sets in. I am deeply disappointed in what appears to be, a form of government which is not for the people of the town. But watching these absolutely insane decisions be made, and then having no recourse, leaves me to shaking my head and wanting to cry; yet another opportunity being squandered to actually move the town forward and to a better place... for what? Front page of Montclair Times has this story, too.
Jessica Henry September 13, 2012 at 05:20 PM
In August, I wrote to every new council member and urged them to say no to this project. Most seemed to think there was nothing that can be done. But I do not agree. While the appeal is pending, the project is not a done deal -- is it? And even if the appeal is lost, there must be ways for the town council to dis-incentivize a project that makes no sense on its face and directly undercuts the (expensive) South Park Street revitalization effort. I realize the new town council did not approve of the project, but it is now up to them to do something to stop it.
Cary Africk September 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
I wrote an elaborate "what you can do post" and hopefully Shelly will be putting it up soon! In the meantime, yes, write to the Town Council! There are actions the current council can take -- I've been advised by knowledgeable people. For one thing, this Council doesn't have to approve a tax "abatement" (PILOT). There are probably other courses of action, too. But so far this Council has indicated that they DO want the ALF and they are unanimous in their agreement, as is the planning board. Amazing isn't it? The electorate can be 100% against something and their elected representatives do the opposite? As for me, AFL yes, but not at that location! Georgian Inn would be good, for one. Cary
thewayitis September 13, 2012 at 05:39 PM
DZone, thanks, and Jessica, thanks and yes. It seems it's up to current TC now to stop it. From what Cary is saying though, they are in agreement it should go forward. Cary: Thank you and I look forward to seeing that "what you can do" post.
Jessica Henry September 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Has the Council affirmatively said they were in favor of the plan, or simply that they feel like their hands are tied? If the latter, then perhaps with enough input from concerned townspeople, they will start to consider the options at their disposal. While I have not taken an official survey, I literally know no one who supports putting the ALF in that location.
montclairgurl September 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I suspect the current council is in favor. Something isn't right here, I'm sure there's a back story.


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