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Updated: Controversial Dementia Home Application Set For Final Vote

Artist’s rendering of the proposed dementia home.


Update: Despite opposition from neighbors, the Zoning Board approved the plan at its May 2 meeting.

Original Story: A controversial application for a 15-bed dementia care center on Bennetts Lane is scheduled to get a vote at the May 2 Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting.

The application came before the board at its April 18 meeting, but no vote could be taken because there weren’t enough board members in attendance.

The developer, Rajiv Singh of Skillman, wants to build the 9,000-square-foot facility – complete with a small farm and greenhouse – on about five acres of what is now vacant land. The building, he told the board, would “look like a farm home.”

The facility, which will be called Green Care Farm, will include a 4,000-square-foot aeroponic greenhouse and a farm populated by small animals, such as chickens, goats, cats and dogs, Singh said.

“Farm activities significantly improve quality of life for those suffering with Alzheimer’s,” he said.

He said the building’s layout will allow every resident to see their room, which, he said, would lessen their anxiety.

Each resident will have their own room with a private bath, he said. There will be common kitchen, library, dining and activity areas.

“It will be a home-like environment,” he said. “The facility lets residents roam freely with silent alarms.”

The residents would be able to go outside for fresh air, he said, but would be restricted by fencing.

“Our mission is to create the best possible living environment for those suffering from Alzheimer’s,” he said. “We have a unique architectural design that promotes wayfinding and reduces anxiety.”

Singh said he and his partner, a doctor who practices geriatric medicine, envision needing only three employees on-site at any time, a claim that was met with incredulity by at least one board member and the many area residents who attended the meeting.

“I don’t think you can run it with three people,” board member Joel Reiss said later in the meeting. “With the farm animals and having to feed 15 people, and clean up after them and cook for them. You can give me any kind of business plan on paper, but it doesn’t actually happen like that. You can tell me any story you want, I don’t believe it.”

“I hear your point, I don’t necessarily agree with it,” board chairman Robert Thomas told Reiss. “We hear different testimonies at every hearing, and you either accept it or you don’t. Even if it were nine employees, I just don’t see how this facility has any impact on anybody.”

“I don’t know where you would find a better place,” he said.

Singh said that although their goal is to have three employees, they would hire more people to cook and clean if need be.

Singh also said traffic generated by the home would be minimal.

There would be very few visitors and only minimal delivery truck traffic, he said.

Singh said the home would not accept insurance, and that the fee would be $285 per day. That led some on the board and in the audience to question what would happen if the facility went out of business.

The answer, they were told, is that if there were a new owner wanting to put a new use on the land, they would have to come before the board for approval.

Bennetts Lane resident Lori Van Dyke said that although she thought the home was a good idea, she and many of her neighbors think it should be built somewhere else.

“This is a residential road, a country road, a farming road,” she said.

The Zoning Board meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Township Council chamber.

 

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