Zoning Board Hears Traffic Impact Of Proposed Assisted Living Facility

By on August 10, 2018
Kensington Verona

The main Bloomfield Avenue and Claremont Avenue facades of the proposed building.

Kensington Senior Development LLC was back before the Verona Board of Adjustment on Thursday for the second round of hearings on its plan to build an assisted living facility on the site of the Richfield Regency.

Michael Rafeedie, Kensington’s development officer, opened his remarks by providing answers to a few questions asked during the first session on the proposed three-story building in July. He gave the board, and the general public present a clearer picture of what the facility’s needs for trash pickup and food deliveries would be, based on the demand for those services at Kensington’s five other facilities around the United States. Rafeedie had told the board during his initial testimony that Kensington would be contracting with a private ambulance service instead of the Verona Rescue Squad and said last night that Kensington’s other facilities, most of which are only slightly smaller than the proposed Verona building, average seven to eight ambulance calls a month.

Rafeedie also clarified the cost of being a resident at the Verona building. The $4,000 monthly charge that he noted in the first hearing would cover the room, meals and housekeeping only, and not care services, which would depend on the condition of the resident. Kensington Verona will have a memory care unit for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but will not be licensed as a skilled nursing facility. There will be 92 units in the building, roughly half of which will be studio apartments, with the rest split between one- and two-bedroom units, for a total of 130 residents. Ten percent of the units will be Medicaid units.

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Then it was time for testimony by Andrew Jafolla of Lake Como, N.J.-based Dynamic Traffic, the traffic engineer for the project. Jafolla began by outlining for the board the current traffic impact of the Richfield Regency, which has operated at the site since the early 1960s. (While Kensington is under contract on the property and its parking lot on Claremont, the Richfield Regency is still booking events through the end of 2019.)

The catering facility can accommodate 475 guests, Jafolla said, who now arrive for weddings and events within a very short window of time. The traffic engineer said that Richfield’s limited entrance means that cars frequently must wait on Bloomfield Avenue to turn in until a valet is able to take the car to the parking lot. Total weekly traffic trips to and from the Richfield–by guests, employees and service vehicles–are now around 1,359, Jafolla said.

Kensington Verona would have fewer than half those traffic trips, Jafolla told the board, putting the total at 500. Few assisted living residents have or their own cars (Rafeedie, Kensington’s development officer, said that only 2.3% of residents at Kensington’s other properties have access to a car), and some employees use public transportation. Jafolla said that most visitors to assisted living facilities tend to come at lunch time to eat with residents. And while shift changes are pegged for 7 a.m., 3 p.m. and 11 p.m., not all employees would actually come and go exactly at those times. Food service workers will likely have to report at 6 a.m., for example, to get breakfast going. “Assisted living will add maybe seven extra cars to Bloomfield Avenue in the morning,” Jafolla said.

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The possibility that traffic to and from Kensington Verona would be less than current Richfield traffic seemed to surprise the Board of Adjustment, and some members of the audience were clearly skeptical. Since the project faces at least one more board meeting in September, Rafeedie offered to have Jafolla do another traffic study after Verona public schools reopen on September 5, and to have Jafolla also review the traffic studies that were submitted for the Annin Lofts project.

The next hearing will Thursday, September 13, in the Verona Community Center ballroom at 8 p.m.

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2 Comments

  1. Sandra Smith

    August 13, 2018 at 9:15 am

    This is the group that proposed a similar project on Church street in Montclair several years ago. Eventually shot down on a legal technicality. Perhaps worth a read for concerned Verona citizens as there is a long history. Curious as to why we would rely on a second traffic study paid for by the developer. How about an outside study on the entire project?

  2. Virginia Citrano

    August 13, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Yes, we noted the Montclair project in our first story on the proposed development in Verona. As for the second traffic study, the first was done in July when school was out. Some people at the August hearing wanted to know if the traffic levels would be different when Verona’s public schools were in session. So the developer agreed to have a second study done once school starts and before the next Board of Adjustment meeting. And readers should know that there are multiple reports–internal and often external–done on any major construction project in Verona, from its engineering to its impact on police, fire and Rescue Squad services. Developers must answer any questions raised in these reports during the hearings.

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