Ledyard - A tax abatement ordinance passed unanimously by the Town Council last week has laid the first round of legal groundwork for a senior housing project long planned for Church Hill Road.
While the ordinance allows only for the town to permit a property tax abatement for low- or moderate-income housing, its passage represented a key hurdle overcome by the Ledyard Congregational Church's Ecclesiastical Society in a plan that President Dave Holdridge said has been in the works for about 12 years.
At a previous council meeting. Planning Commission Chairman Mike Cherry had endorsed its passage, saying such an ordinance has a "noble purpose" that would enable the town to address a "valid need" for more affordable senior housing.
"There's very little deed-restricted or subsidized housing of any kind in Ledyard," Cherry said at that meeting, noting Kings Corner Manor on Kings Highway in Gales Ferry as the only example and it has a long waiting list.
Holdridge said more than a century ago, the church accepted an 80-acre land gift with the expectation that the house on the land would be used as the pastor's residence, with the rest used as farmland to supplement the pastor's income. The church's pastor still uses the house, Holdridge said, but the rest of the land has not been used agriculturally for decades.
"In recent years, in the last 60 years or so, the pastor has not engaged in farming," Holdridge said. "So we have this land that's mostly not used."
The Ecclesiastical Society, which acts as the landowning group for the church, decided to use the land to respond to a local need for senior housing. In order to offer affordable accommodations similar to the town-owned, non-taxable Kings Corner Manor, Holdridge said the proposed complex would need an abatement in place.
Now that the town is able to permit such a tax abatement, the Society can continue to move forward with its plans.
Holdridge said the Society has been working with the New Haven-based New Samaritan Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing provider that would eventually own the complex.
Together, they've put together an application for a loan from the state Department of Economic and Community Development - about $200,000 to be put toward finishing blueprints, planning for a septic system and water supply, and paying an architect, all in an effort to bring plans to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Holdridge said he expects the loan to be approved soon, and that the next few months will be dedicated to putting together a presentation.
So far, a conceptual plan calls for a major building in the front of the complex in the Colonial style of a "big, old New England house," Holdridge said, where many of the 62 units would be housed. Farther back on the property would be cottage-type housing for middle-income owners, and a building for recreation and dining in the middle.
This plan uses about 15 acres of the 80-acre parcel. All of the housing would be for seniors 55 and older, with some designated as affordable, Holdridge said. The Ecclesiastical Society will also be looking for federal grant money to complete the project.
The Society's decision to use its land in this way reflects not only Ledyard's need for affordable senior housing but also a regional need as the general population ages.
"There's gonna be more and more need for senior housing as the years go on," Holdridge said.