Kent Planning Commission again approves use certificate for new assisted living facility

Repeating its 3-2 vote of April 23, Kent’s Planning Commission on May 14 approved a conditional use certificate for a 72-bed assisted living facility and 38 independent living units to be built at 1541 S. Water St.

Approval was contingent on developer Portage Health Network submitting a technical plan review, agreeing to plant a closely spaced evergreen screen around the perimeter of the 8.53-acre site and that PHN consolidate the two parcels it intends to develop into one.

The Planning Commission had approved the project on April 23, but city officials later learned that property owners at 17 nearby addresses had not been notified as they should have been.

The planned facility has been controversial, with residents on the surrounding streets sharing numerous concerns ranging from stormwater runoff to the loss of open space.

Though council chambers were packed to standing room only capacity, Community Development Director Bridget Susel said only the people living at the addresses that had not been notified would be permitted to speak.

Concerned about increased traffic, Rellim Drive resident Sarah Abell asked the commission to stipulate that the only entrance and egress would be via South Water Street. Susel said all the surrounding land is privately owned, so PHN would have to purchase it in order to gain additional access points.

Her husband, Colin Abell, alleged that the dens in some of the independent living units could be easily used as second bedrooms and could potentially bring the independent living community to within a dozen of the 72-bed assisted living facility. Noting that the city does not permit multifamily units in medium-density residential neighborhoods, he said not counting the two-bedroom units as multifamily is “a stretch.”

Susel, though, said that since the dens do not have closets, they are not being classified as second bedrooms.

She also denied a Rellim Drive resident’s request for a traffic study, saying the nearby Dunkin’ Donuts shop didn’t warrant one and the assisted living installation wouldn’t, either.

Another resident asked for an environmental impact study, but Susel said they are not required for private projects.

Two Rellim Drive residents made emotional appeals to the commission members, with one asking them to put themselves in her position as she faced the loss of acres of trees bordering her property.

Attendees erupted in anger when Susel denied them the opportunity to weigh in. Undeterred, the commission adjourned the meeting.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.