The New Haven Board of Aldermen nixed plans from ELS Properties to build residential duplexes for people 55 and older Monday night.
Ed Schmelz, of ELS Properties, asked the city for a rezoning during Monday’s board of aldermen meeting. He wanted a property on Heritage Valley Drive he has under contract to be changed from R1-A, its current zoning classification, to R1-C, which allows for duplexes. The aldermen denied the request.
Schmelz told The Missourian Tuesday that he now plans to build approximately 14 single-family rental houses on the property, which is permitted under the current zoning. He said the units will be 1,200 to 1,300 square feet each, have one-car garages and cost around $1,200 a month for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. The homes will be available to people of all ages.
“There’s really a big need for something like that in New Haven,” Schmelz said. “I think there was a bigger need for the senior residences, but this fills a need, too.”
ELS Properties is behind several other residential developments in the area. Many of them, like Schmelz’s original New Haven plans, were designed specifically for older residents. The company built the Independence Valley and Denmark Villas in Union, Orange Blossom Estates in Warrenton and Tower View Estates in Linn, and it’s currently building Country Club Farms near Washington. It’s also built a few developments in Washington aimed at people of all ages, including the Shoe Factory Lofts and 1 Hundred West Apartments.
Schmelz told The Missourian many people living in his Union seniors-only subdivisions moved from New Haven.
However, at the center of Monday’s meeting were Schmelz’s original plans to build 11 to 12 duplexes. The plans called for each unit to be one story with a zero-lot line, meaning the buildings run right up to the edge of the property. They would have been available for rent at the cost of $675 per month for an 800-square-foot unit, $825 per month for a 1,150 square-foot unit and $925 per month for a 1,250 square-foot unit. Maintenance, including grass-cutting and snow removal, would have been included with rent. Schmelz planned to only rent to people 55 or older.
The planning and zoning commission, during its Sept. 28 meeting, recommended the board of aldermen reject this rezoning request. Monday night, the aldermen agreed with that recommendation and voted unanimously to deny the zoning request after hearing several negative comments from residents near the proposed development.
“It’s a family-based neighborhood, and we have children playing on the street,” Elizabeth Hellmann said. “That is very concerning to me that something that has been established for families is going to change.”
Hellmann said she lives nearby and that if this development goes forward, she and a few of her neighbors will likely sell their houses.
“We are not happy with having rentals in an area where we own nice houses,” said Barbara Farris.
After residents spoke, the aldermen said they heard their concerns.
“At a certain point, when you’re an elected official, you listen to what the residents say,” Ward 1 Alderman Tim Otten said. “I hope Mr. Schmelz understands where we are coming from.”
Ward 1 Alderman Jason Addison said that, as the son of someone with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he understands New Haven’s need for more senior-accessible housing.
“Everyone in this room will one day need a stairless house,” he said. However, he still opposed the duplexes. “At this point, I would just like to see single-family houses.”