Glendale - A proposal that would double the number of assisted living units approved last year at the former Prange Greenhouse site received a rezoning recommendation from the Glendale Plan Commission on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Developers Nick and Simon Donets received approval from the Glendale Plan Commission last year to build two 20-unit assisted living facilities at the site of the former Prange Greenhouse at the northeast corner of West Good Hope and North Range Line roads.

An eight-lot subdivision was proposed north of the assisted living facilities, but after the project was approved, the Department of Natural Resources found a majority of the soil in the subdivision area was contaminated with arsenic and other chemicals.

The cost for soil remediation per residential lot would exceed $70,000, which Simon Donets said makes it financially infeasible to develop single-family homes on that land. The revised plan would reduce the number of single-family home lots from eight to three. Donets would sell the lots to a builder, since he is not in the home construction business.

Donets is also proposing to double the number of units in each assisted living facility, bringing each building to 28,000 square feet. The two single-story, 26-foot-tall buildings would now have a total of 80 units and 92 beds. In an effort to create a "park-like setting," the new plan will move the two large buildings further north in the lot, and move the DNR-mandated drainage pond south, closer to Good Hope Road.

The added density and removal of single-family homes did not sit well with many neighbors, including plan commissioner Joshua Wadzinski, who was serving at his first meeting. He asked Donets to consider reducing the number of units on the property.

"You're completely changing the fabric of, frankly, where I live," Wadzinski said.

The two buildings are similar to an assisted living facility, but it's technical name is a community-based residential facility. Donets said the property will be inhabited by elderly and disabled residents, along with some individuals with dementia. Individuals who need more than five hours of skilled nursing care would have to be moved to a nursing home.

Some residents were concerned that the facility would accept people in drug or alcohol rehabilitation. Simon Donets said those patients typically require more than five hours of skilled nursing per week. Nick Donets added that their two-year license does not allow them to treat people for drug or alcohol rehabilitation.

The property will be bordered by foliage, but some neighboring residents on the west requested a fence to block in residents that might wander away. Donets said he thought the foliage would prevent people from leaving the property and was hesitant to use fencing, which might make residents feel like they are trapped. He didn't think residents would try to leave the property, but he said he would consider some level of fencing behind the foliage.

"We just haven't seen that in our 15 years of experience, that people are wandering away from our facilities," Simon Donets said.

The project will be primarily accessed off Good Hope Road, but there will also be access off of Range Line Road. When residents in the neighboring Manchester Village development voiced concerns about cars pulling a u-turn near their entrance, Donets said the 10 to 12 employees could be directed to use the Range Line Road entrance.

Alderman Dick Wiese, speaking as a resident during the public comment portion of the meeting, said the development would be an upgrade from the vacant lot. The developers demolished the former greenhouse property before the DNR informed him about the contamination.

"I see that this development would be an asset to the area," Wiese said. "It's taking a blighted property that cannot be sold, as far as I've been told, as single-family residences. If the developer walks away, we are going to have fallow land that who is going to care for?"

The plan commission voted 5-2 to recommend the common council rezone the property to allow for the development. The council will hold a public meeting in February about this issue.

(This article was updated at Dec. 7 to reflect that Manchester Village residents were concerned about cars making a u-turn at the median cut used to access Manchester Village - not on the Manchester Village property as originally reported)

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