Council opens door to senior housing

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:46

    SPARTA-They both meet the age requirements, but Louis and Louise Nazzaro don't plan on living in a proposed senior housing development on property along Main Street in Sparta. No, it's time to retire, the longtime Sparta residents said; time to move on, time to close the doors to the Central -- the landmark Italian restaurant the family has owned, worked, and lived above for the past 60 years n one last time. The Nazzaros sat together in the back of the municipal building this week and watched and listened intently as the Sparta Township Council amended a zoning ordinance that paves the way for the establishment of a commercial town center and age-restricted housing district where the Central restaurant and pizzeria has stood for decades. David Troast, Sparta Township planner, said the ordinance will generate affordable hosing units for seniors within walking distance to the grocery store, haircutters, the library, banks, shoe store, and municipal building. "One of the goals of the township has been to encourage more senior housing," said Troast. "This ordinance sets forth the standard by which it can happen. It's where housing is supposed to be, especially affordable housing and, in my opinion, age-restricted housing. It allows for higher mobility without the use of the automobile." The Main Street Town Center designation also permits development of commercial retail and office space, but prohibits any structure from exceeding three stories or 38 feet high. The council amended the ordinance to accommodate Nouvelle Associates of Sparta, which has plans to develop the district with 44 senior units and new commercial building and office space. "We knew there was a need for age-restricted housing," said Peter D'Antonio, a builder and developer with the firm. "We thought the Town Center would be an excellent location for it. And when we went to the township with the concept, they thought it was a good one." The amended ordinance requires at least one occupant of the senior residential units to be 55 years of age or older and other members to be over the age of 19. At least 80 percent of the units shall be under three bedrooms. D'Antonio said adoption of the amendment allows the application process to proceed. He said architectural plans are being drafted and expects ground to broken by the fall. "This will bring new focus to the Town Center, more people, more activity," said D'Antonio. "Any time there's a new project, it brings focus back to an area that might have been forgotten or overlooked." The property currently includes a florist, law office, barbershop, memorabilia shop, and the Central restaurant.