Salem commission approves zoning exception to launch age-restricted housing

Salem — A vacant building designed for medical offices will see new life as the town's first age-restricted housing next year.

After a sparsely attended public hearing Tuesday night, the town Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the special exception application for Salem Center LLC. The company's building at 15 Centre St. will be converted into six one-bedroom, age-restricted apartments or condominiums.

Town Planner Richard Serra noted the application was relatively straightforward, since the building already exists and would only need renovation work. The public hearing was required because the building is currently zoned as business, and the special exception was required to allow age-restricted housing.

Salem’s zoning regulations define age-restricted housing as developments specifically for residents ages 55 and up. Facing a projected dramatic increase in the number of seniors living in town, Chairman Joe Duncan said the commission had “gone through great pains” to review the regulations in order to create more places for seniors to live.

Ted Zito, representing Salem Center LLC, said the Centre Street building had been built for business but saw little interest from occupants. At the time of construction, age-restricted housing regulations hadn't been established in town, but the company's building at 24 Hartford Road has non-age-restricted apartments on the second floor, all of which are occupied.

He said most of the work would involve interior renovations and relocating the exterior doors and windows to grant access to each apartment. The units would be roughly 800 to 850 square feet, with oak floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Each apartment would have its own garage in addition to the ample parking in the lot created for the medical offices. Some of the parking eventually may be converted to green space.

First Selectman Kevin Lyden and Selectman Dave Kennedy were the sole public commenters and both supported the proposal, commending the commission’s efforts to revise the regulations to fit the needs of the town.

Zito said construction likely wouldn’t start until the spring, but with the minimal work required, the new apartments likely would be ready by June or July.

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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