YORK — City leaders approved changes requested by the developer of a 52-acre mixed-use senior living campus in York after listening to residents’ fears about the potential impact on their neighborhoods.
Chris Sinz, president of CDS Development Company, received a third approval from the York City Council for changes to the development first approved in 2008. However, council members added two cavets to the approval, limiting the size of a possible gas station to not more than two acres and requiring Sinz to report back on the project in six months.
“I do not want to hear, for the next five years, that ‘We are working on financing,’” York Mayor Eddie Lee told Sinz, referring to years of delays in the project. “I do not want to hear that. I want it done.”
The project, Olde York Square, at the northwest corner of S.C. 5 and Alexander Love Highway in York, was proposed in 2008 as an upscale community of single-family homes and businesses such as banks, a grocery store, drug store, eateries and a coffee shop
It has now been transformed into an age-restricted community that would have homes, apartments, assisted living beds and rooms for Alzheimer’s disease patients, as well as commercial parcels.
Sinz said that under the conditions of the financing he has planned, the apartments and other housing units would be leased to seniors on a month-to-month basis rather than being sold.
However, Sinz’s request for greater flexibility in the use of the commercial parcels drew the most oppositon from residents. He asked that a gas station, pet care facility and a small bowling alley be included among possible commercial uses to serve the 400 seniors who would be living on the campus.
Donnie Shulter, a resident of the area, was among several people who voiced concerns to the council about a gas station, questioning the environmental impact, the appearance and the need for another gas station.
Shuler also said the short-term nature of the leases could “lead to a very transient population. And we’re also concerned, if the funds run out, would the project not be finished?”
Mike Baker, a resident of Estate Drive, told the council that rental properties can become a burden on the city. He said York already has a high percentage of rental property, at more than 50 percent.
Baker voiced a concen about the changes made to the development plan since 2008. “It has gone from a high-end community, and now we’ve gone down to all rental properties,” Baker said.
Sinz said the lease structure is driven by the financing plans, saying that senior residents would lease the living units because they have less certainty about their future needs.
He said there are no firm plans to have a gas station, but that the development needs flexibility if an investor wants to develop one there. He said the pet facility would offer pet grooming, not overnight care.
The council approved the requests, adding the requirement that a gas station on the site would be no more than two acres. Sinz cited the three-acre Exxon On the Run station on S.C. 5 east of York as a possible example.
However, council member Bill Miller said that he and Sinz had discussed a much smaller gas station as a possibility. Miller said he was concerned about “a truckstop-sized gas station.”
Sinz agreed. “We’re opposed to a truck stop,” he said. He also agreed to report back to the council in September about the project’s progress.
Council member Mark Boley argued that the council should approve the plans, saying the development is a good plan. “Is it a perfect plan? Probably not, but I think it’s a very nice plan.”
“It’s not haphazard,” Boley said. “You do have to give the developer some flexibility...You could do a lot worse out there. I think this development is going to anchor that end of the bypass and set the tone. I think it’s a good concept.”
The approved plan calls for 75 patio homes; 156 one- and two-bedroom independent and assisted living apartments; five free-standing assisted living buildings, each with 12 to 16 beds; and 20 memory care rooms for Alzheimer’s patients.
Sinz said the development would be largely restructed to people ages 55 and older, with just 10 percent to 20 percent open to others. He said some of the younger inhabitants might include people with disabilities such as Down syndrome, who need assisted living care.
Sinz said the most recent delay in the plan resulted from a yearlong search for funding that ended late last year. He said he is now working with a
Charleston firm that plans to finance the project with $40 million in tax-exempt bonds.
Sinz’s partners include Myra Strickland, an Allen Tate real estate broker in York County, and Joe Roche, president of Massachusetts-based Momentum Senior Living Group, which would market and manage the facility.
Sinz said construction could begin this summer if plans for the financing are approved.