Senior Housing: Plum Officials Hope to Attract Senior Housing Developers

By Tamara Conrad for plum-oakmont.patch.com

Plum officials are hoping to attract retirement community developers.

The borough planning commission will continue to discuss the possibility of permitting senior housing in neighborhood residential districts. Borough council requested the planning commission to look into the matter last month.

The borough, seniors and the developers all would benefit from the zoning amendment, Councilman Keith Nowalk said.

“It’s not just one person benefitting from this,” he said.

In January, the borough approved the development proposal for Plum Heights, a four-level housing complex on Repp Road that will feature a 58-unit apartment and townhouses. Officials’ opinions were split on the matter.

Permitting senior housing development in more districts throughout the borough would attract more developers, said Greg Bachy, assistant borough manager.

“It would offer more options for people doing this kind of development,” he said.

Allowing elderly housing in neighborhood residential districts would allot developers more space to construct larger senior communities, Nowalk said.

“We have a lot of land,” he said. “We have a lot of good land.”

Officials said having more senior residents in the community would be profitable because while they pay borough and school taxes, they extract fewer community services and are less of an expense.

“The older you get, the less you use,” Nowalk said.

Nowalk and developer Jim Rumbaugh agree that many Pittsburgh senior citizens don’t want to move away from the communities they’ve nestled into.

“They also don’t want to cut their grass or shovel their snow,” said Rumbaugh, whose organizations, The Meritage Group and Cloverleaf Properties, have been bringing senior housing in and around Plum for 15 years.

Cloverleaf Properties developed the Clover Commons along Abers Creek Road in Plum. While the company also has senior communities in Westmoreland County, Rumbaugh said many people don’t want to relocate there.

“Plum is a logical place for people over 55 to stay,” he said.

The borough has such senior residents who are looking downsize, Bachy said. However, he said Plum does not have many areas specifically for seniors, and the borough loses residents who relocate to elderly communities in other municipalities.

Elderly housing would at least maintain, if not increase, borough income by encouraging seniors to downsize within the community, Bachy said.

Senior housing is a needed service in Plum, and there’s enough good land for such community developments, Nowalk said.

“Presbyterian (SeniorCare in Oakmont) wouldn’t be building them if it wasn’t working and something that’s needed in the community,” Nowalk said referring to the Longwood at Oakmont retirement community on Route 909 on the Plum-Oakmont border, which is an affiliate of Presbyterian SeniorCare.

The community offers homes and apartments and has amenities including fitness programs, an outpatient care suite and rehabilitation services. The facility has been adding more housing to its campus.

Plum residents would appreciate a senior community similar to Longwood, but perhaps more affordable, such as what is being offered at Plum Heights, Bachy said.

There is a waiting list in Plum for current senior housing available, Plum Heights developer Victor Rodriguez said, which is increasing interest in senior housing development within the borough.

“Typically the driver is the need,” he said.

There are about 20 people on the waiting list for Plum Heights, which will be completed April 2012, Rodriguez said.

Compared to single-family housing plans proposed for the borough, the housing market is flat, Nowalk said. Developers have approached him, however, with interest in senior housing.

In 2009, the borough turned down Nowalk’s senior housing proposal.

Nowalk said the amendment is not an attempt to simply bring in senior housing, but to “bring Plum up” by drawing development in general into the area.

“We’re not trying to bring senior housing,” he said. “We’re trying to bring development.”

[plum-oakmont.patch.com]

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