Sherman plans to lease land from a private developer for his first senior housing

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SHERMAN — While about 55 percent of its residents are 55 and older, the town of Sherman has no seniors’ residences.

The city is involved in an initiative to change that. It proposes to develop a 12-acre city-owned open lot behind the American Pie Company into housing for those 55 and older.

Under the proposal, the city would lease the land to a private developer for $1 per year, plus assessed taxes.

“The developer would develop this housing, and in the cost of developing it, they wouldn’t have to add land costs,” said Sherman resident Tim Hollander, a member of the city’s former housing committee. “To recoup his costs, he would save something, and those savings would translate into lower rents for tenants. We would make sure this happened according to the terms of the lease.

Along with several housing committee members, Hollander formed a non-profit organization called Independence Village of Sherman (IVS), which offers senior development.

The development would be managed privately.

“The only role the city really has in this regard is to lease the land back to the developer in a favorable location,” Sherman First Selectman Don Lowe said.

For the proposal to receive the green light, residents would approve the plan in a public vote because the city owns the land.

Hollander and several others involved with IVS are hosting a public forum on the proposal at 10 a.m. on April 9 at Charter Hall, the city’s volunteer fire department, 1 Route 39. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions.

Complex specificities

The complex would include a combination of 52 studio, one and two bedroom apartments which would be available for rent.

Additionally, there is approximately 18,000 square feet of space on the lower level. Part of this space will be used for a common room, a gym and storage rooms for the tenants.

The proposed layout would include solar panels, a balcony, individual HVAC units and a washer/dryer in the unit.

“To keep rental rates reasonable and not market determined rates, the lease will provide a cap on the profit a developer can make,” Hollander said.

Housing would not only be open to residents of Sherman, but anyone who qualifies.

Need a senior residence

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, approximately 1,950 of the city’s 3,600 residents are age 55 and older.

When creating the city’s conservation and development plan, the need for housing for the elderly was taken into account.

“Some form of housing for the elderly has been deemed acceptable or desirable by the residents… Within one year of the date of adoption of this revision of the POCD, the Housing Commission will develop and submit to the city a proposal to this effect, and will continue to explore other options for housing the elderly,” the plan states.

With the idea of ​​senior housing, it is believed that senior citizens would not have to leave the city they live in once they retire or downsize.

Lynne Gomez, Sherman’s director of social services, said seniors often like to stay in the city they’ve lived and loved.

“It’s a real feeling, and when the house is big and it gets crowded, how do you stay in your neighborhood?” she said.

“There has long been a perceived need for senior housing in Sherman, and city surveys have proven that the majority of people support it,” Lowe said.

He added, however, that unlike towns like Kent, which have “a whole downtown area where you can walk, Sherman doesn’t have those kinds of amenities.”

Additionally, the city also has no water or sewer “which helps build cluster-like housing,” he said.

Sherman resident Elizabeth Beatty, who has lived in the town for 85 years, is strongly opposed to the IVS proposal, saying it is not needed in a town like Sherman.

She said Sherman is a very rural little town.

“We are not New Fairfield, New Milford or Bethel, with their many multi-family apartments,” she said. “It’s totally inappropriate for Sherman. We live in the northernmost town in Fairfield County. Sherman is totally different from the rest of Fairfield County. Sherman really should have been part of Litchfield County.

Sherman resident John Cilio is also against the proposal. Although he said he wouldn’t oppose the idea of ​​senior housing, he said he didn’t understand why a private developer would get the land essentially for free.

“Why should the city give land that has no reason to be given to a commercial developer for profit?” he says, adding that he doesn’t know why the developer couldn’t buy land in town.

Moreover, he said that if the development of the apartment complex fails, the city will be responsible.

Lowe said the city came up with a senior housing development plan in 2013 but it was voted down, with 67% opposed to 33% in favour.

“The idea then was that the city of Sherman would build this,” he said. “The only part of Sherman’s involvement this time would be to lease land from the city under favorable circumstances from a developer.”

He reiterated, however, that nothing would move forward without a referendum vote from the city “to let the people speak on that.”


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