Senior complex owners appeal 9 of city’s approval conditions

GILROY
– With construction already well underway – and hours of often
nerve-wracking deliberations and exchanges with the developers
behind their belts – City Council approved another major component
of a major planned-housing community for seniors Monday.
GILROY – With construction already well underway – and hours of often nerve-wracking deliberations and exchanges with the developers behind their belts – City Council approved another major component of a major planned-housing community for seniors Monday.

After spending hours of often frustrating discussion over the course of the last year with the developers of the Village Green project – including considering the developers’ unprecedented appeal of nearly all of the 13 conditions that city planning staff and Planning Commissioners recommended when they analyzed the project – a thoroughly exasperated City Council approved use permits Monday for a major Alzheimer’s and assisted-living facility for the project at Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hecker Pass Highway.

The 6-0 vote came at nearly 1 a.m. Tuesday, following nearly three hours of often technical, confusing discussion that left red-faced councilmembers rolling their eyes, burying their heads in their hands and slumping in their chairs.

“If it was not for an Alzheimer’s and assisted living facility, I would have said no,” said Councilman Bob Dillon, who nearly threatened to reject the permit at one point over an appeal he considered “astounding.” “But it’s something I want for community, so I’m willing to play ball, cross my fingers, and hope it comes out OK.”

The hours of discussion have come as the city tries to balance meeting the city’s desire and need for the project – which officials said will apparently be the first Alzheimer’s facility in Gilroy and the first assisted-care facility of its type and size here – with a desire to protect the integrity of its planning process.

The council had exempted the 175-bed Alzheimer’s care and assisted living facility – located at Santa Teresa Boulevard and Hecker Pass Highway – from the city’s Residential Development Ordinance competition in 1998-99 because it was considered a commercial project.

However, when project developers DMA Gilroy Associates asked the council to sign off on a state bond financing application earlier this year, city staffers said the care facility appeared different than originally proposed.

Instead of one large building, it had been broken into a 74-bed care facility and 101 apartments – worrying staffers that the project was now more residential in nature and no longer eligible for the commercial exemption.

After hours of discussion, Council agreed to reaffirm the project was commercial in nature – with the caveat that a number of specific provisions would be added to its use permit to ensure the facility stayed as a care facility throughout its lifetime and did not convert to regular apartments.

But after gaining the approval of the city’s Planning Commission, project applicant DMA Gilroy Associates appealed nearly all of the 13 conditions placed on the project.

The conditions ranged from increased parking and recreational space at the two-building facility to provisions that would have city planning staff oversee operations under the permit.

Project representative Franco Mola told Council that the appeal was based mostly on language changes needed to secure financing for the facility and to keep the project affordable.

For example, he asked the city to soften language on the city’s oversight role, asking that if the state license for the facility was removed, the facility would use “best faith” efforts to meet licensing requirements – and the city would have the right to sue for performance instead of automatically revoking the use permit.

“Lenders want to know it can’t be up to someone’s whim to (revoke) the license,” he said.

He also asked the city to delete a condition that would force the operator to offer a suite of several services – ranging from housekeeping to a 24-hour nurse call system – on a “continual basis.”

But city planning staff said such changes would gut safeguards that the services would have to be provided in the facility. And Council mostly stuck to their guns Monday, keeping most of the conditions intact, loosening a few a bit while tightening others. Instead of automatically tying the revocation of a state license to revocation of the city’s use permit, they instead softened the language to say that the state revocation would prompt the start of “due process” in the city.

And they cut a recommendation on parking spaces for the project from 113 stalls to 101.

But Council accordingly adjusted the number of beds at the facility to numbers produced by Village Green in May, and also required the developer to add more recreational space in the two-building facility.

How the conditions will specifically affect the project was unclear Friday.

Applicants DMA Gilroy Associates will have to return to Council early next year with revised site plans that will undergo an architectural and design review. If that’s approved, they will then proceed to secure building permits for the new facility.

City planning officials said they had not heard from DMA Associates yet after the vote, and representatives could not be reached immediately by press time.

Councilman Roland Velasco abstained from the vote because he lives near the site.

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