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Controversial senior facility faces split vote in Greenfield

Planning panel narrowly recommends against Castle concept

Jan. 22, 2014

Greenfield — On a 4-3 vote, the Greenfield Plan Commission last week recommended denying a land split needed for a controversial senior living care facility.

Whether the land at 4900 S. 68th St. should be split was one of two questions before the Plan Commission. The other was whether to allow the proposed Castle Home Care facility to be built next door to an existing facility, also involving the same owners.

But with the commission recommending denial of the land split, the second question was rendered moot. It would become active again, however, if the Common Council disregards the Plan Commission recommendation and approves the land split at its Feb. 4 meeting.

Favoring the split

Developer Kevin Kiefer, who owns the facility with his brother, said he hopes the council will do just that because the new lot meets all city requirements for a land division.

"We are abiding by all the rules, so I don't see how the Common Council couldn't approve it," Kiefer said this week.

Alderman Karl Kastner, who cast one of the three votes favoring the split, agreed.

"They have a right to split the lot because they met our designations as to the lot size," Kastner said.

But the discussion about a second senior care facility beside the first is a whole other discussion, Kastner acknowledged. If that discussion takes place, city officials will consider the myriad objections neighbors expressed to the plan.

'Enormous' concern

The main objection was how big the proposed eight-bed building would be.

The nearly 5,000-square-foot proposed structure would be far larger than the current group home, a 1.5-story Cape Cod-style house that was a single-family home before it was converted, also into an eight-bed facility, many years ago.

Neighbors argue that the proposed home is too big for the neighborhood.

"This thing is enormous," said neighbor Judith Cody. "It doesn't look like a home, it looks like an institution."

"A community-based residential facility is way too big at 5,000 square feet for the lot," said neighbor Jim Palmar, a former alderman.

In fact, it would be the only "home" of that size in Greenfield, said Tom Pietrowski, alderman for the area. Checking city assessment records, he said he found only one 5,000-square-foot home and that one includes an enclosed swimming pool.

The land is zoned for single family homes. State law allows group homes of no more than eight beds in residential neighborhoods because these smaller facilities are deemed to be able to blend in.

Developer Kiefer said he has been working with neighbors on the size of the homes, changing the plan many times over the years to try to accommodate neighborhood concerns. The first plan years ago would have razed the current home and replaced it with two 15,000-square-foot buildings, he said.

"We are trying to work with everyone," Kiefer said.

Other objections

But just having two residential care facilities side-by-side is objectionable because the potential commotion of additional rescue vehicles coming to the home, neighbors say.

"We've got enough ambulances going in and out of that place as it is," said neighbor David Kusz.

Some said that allowing side-by-side group homes would set a precedent. State law requires such facilities to be 2,500 feet apart, unless city approval is given.

"I don't mind one here and one there. But a cluster of them, that's a whole different thing," said neighbor Terry Krell.

Also, for neighbor Ronald Pietraszewski, the most important element is that the project could make area flooding worse. After a hard rain, the back of his yard is so wet it takes weeks to dry out — and and the Cody yard is worse, he said.

"We call it Lake Cody. Her yard is literally not there," Pietraszewski said, who also noted that 68th Street four or five times in the last five years, with water up to five inches deep.

Knowing that, the development would address drainage issues, Kiefer said.

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