By Christine Bryant
The construction of a proposed senior living facility in Reynoldsburg is gaining the attention of residents and city officials – some in support and others wary.
Reynoldsburg City Council and city planning commission members are reviewing a proposal that would develop an age-restricted, senior living campus on a 14-acre vacant parcel located on East Main Street between Carlyle Drive and Hanson Road.
At the March 2 planning commission meeting, members voted to send an application that requests a zoning change – a move needed to construct the facility – to council for review.
It’s a standard back-and-forth process that city council will ultimately have the final say on – approve the zoning change request and the facility may be built. Deny it, and the developer, Wallick Communities, must look elsewhere.
Eric Snowden, the city’s planning and zoning administrator, said as of press time, a final decision on the the zoning district change could happen by early April.
The proposed development will focus on a “Continuum of Care Model,” which includes providing independent senior living, assisted senior living and an intergenerational child and adult daycare facility that would feature opportunities for children and seniors to interact through daily activities such as reading books, arts and crafts, and walks.
Tim Swiney, senior vice president with development for Wallick Communities, said the project is geared toward providing an age-restricted, affordable housing option to adults 55 years and older, with low- to moderate-incomes.
In age-restricted communities, typical occupancy regulations state each household, or a certain percentage of the households, must have a resident age 55 or older, and additional age restrictions are enforced for any other members of the household, such as a spouse, partner or child, he said. This includes setting a minimum age of 40 years or older for the spouse or partner and a maximum age of 18 years for a child.
There are also specific guidelines for how long underage visitors, such as grandchildren, can stay with community residents, he said.
Wallick is seeking to finance the independent living community with 9 percent housing tax credits, a program the Ohio Housing Finance Agency administers.
To remain as competitive as possible and align with the scoring criteria for the upcoming 2017 allocation, Swiney says 70 percent of the units will be age-restricted for independent adults age 55 and older, 25 percent of the units will be age-restricted to independent adults ages 62 years and older, and 5 percent of the units will be un-age-restricted, but dedicated to individuals with disabilities who qualify for the Ohio Department of Medicaid Subsidy Demonstration Program.
Residents also must meet income requirements to live on the property. The project’s one- and two-bedroom units will target one- and two-person senior renter households with incomes that range between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income, which would fall around $14,640 to $33,420 for a one- to two-person household, Swiney said.
Because of income restrictions required with the tax credit program, if the remaining members of the household receive income from wages or other benefits, that income is included with the overall household income and could disqualify a resident from living on the property.
Councilman Marshall Spalding, who represents Ward 3, said the proposal appears to serve a need for seniors to have more affordable living and extra care. The location of the facility falls just inside Spalding’s ward.
“Wallick Communities’ construction plans look sound and the buildings are well built and very classy looking,” he said. “I would like to see this property utilized.”
Vacant since 1963, the property has been marketed for several years, with few inquiries, he said.
“This project will generate more than 65 new jobs and the city would see an additional benefit of more than $40,000 in new income revenue,” Spalding said.
However, Councilman Stephen Cicak, who represents Ward 1, said he is not convinced it is in the best use of the property.
“I know and understand that there is a need for subsidized senior housing due to the Baby Boomer generation facing retirement,” he said. “I think this would be a great project for another location, not on Main Street, because this use does not fit with the planned use.”
The property, which currently is managed in a trust, always has been intended as commercial use, he said.
“Reynoldsburg held a public hearing and the majority in attendance were against the project at this proposed Main Street location,” Cicak said. “The people who want this zoning change either work for Wallick, who will be receiving the subsidy, or for the trust, who only recently have marketed the property for sale.”
He also has concerns that more younger residents than intended will reside on the property since each household only needs one resident age 55 and older.
Swiney said it’s a common concern he has heard among Reynoldsburg residents inquiring about plans for the property, but says because the housing tax credit program is a federally-sponsored program, there are strict compliance requirements that Wallick, as the owner, must conform with to remain in compliance with restrictions associated with the tax credit program.
“Each year the tenant remains in the low-income unit, a re-examination or recertification must be performed by the owner to ensure the tenant continues to remain program eligible,” Swiney said.
Wallick currently owns 13 senior and age-restricted communities in Ohio, providing a total of 664 units. Of those units, the average household size is 1.05 persons, with an average household age of 67. Of the 664 units, 20 have a spouse, partner or caretaker residing with the primary tenant with an average age of 62.4 years old.
Just over 1 percent of the units – 8 – have dependents, with an average age of 6.5 years old.
The initial phase of the Reynoldsburg campus – the independent senior living community – calls for 60 one-story, residential townhome units in multiple buildings, consisting of 30 one-bedroom units and 30 two-bedroom units.
The second phase, the assisted senior living community, would offer personal and assisted living care services to residents. The proposed development would provide up to 130 rooms without kitchens consisting of one-bedroom and studio/efficiency units. Plans call for a restaurant-style dining facility as well.
The third and final phase of the proposal would provide a one-story, 12,000-square-foot child and adult daycare facility on the northeastern portion of the property. The proposed facility would provide daycare for up to 60 seniors and 60 children, as well as other amenities for residents and staff.
Council President Doug Joseph said he generally has been supportive of the project and is concerned about the incorrect information he has seen, including on social media sites.
“I am disappointed in the misinformation out there that this is Section 8 housing, which of course it is not,” he said.
While he says he looks forward to further discussions, as president of council, he only votes on the measure if there is a tie vote among council members.