Bethany Home is proposing a three-story building, renovations to its existing nursing home and a wellness center specifically for geriatric use on its campus in Waupaca.
The nonprofit’s plan was before the city’s Plan Commission on Nov. 11.
Requests for rezoning and a special use permit were tabled by the Plan Commission and are now scheduled to go before the commission at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10.
Commissioners Alan Kjelland, Kay Lutze, Eric Olson and Brian Smith voted to table both requests. Pat Phair voted against it, and John Edlebeck abstained.
“As the Plan Commission, we have to feel comfortable making recommendations,” Smith said before the vote.
Lutze said tabling a decision would give Brennan Kane, the city’s development director, a chance to talk to the architects more about the type of materials being proposed.
It would also give neighbors the opportunity to talk about buffers, she said.
Bethany Home currently has 104 skilled nursing beds, 20 residential care apartment complex units and 40 independent living duplex units.
Plans call for minor renovations to the existing nursing home.
Its 60 rooms would be repurposed to a Community Based Residential Facility, which would include a secured unit of 36 units with cognitive needs in private rooms.
The other 25 private rooms would be available for residents who have other care needs.
The Pines is the current 20 Residential Care Apartment Complex of one and two-bedroom units. It would be expanded with a one-story structure, resulting in an additional 20 total units.
Bethany Home’s proposal also includes the construction of a three-story building on Berlin Street.
It would house 18 private, skilled nursing rooms per floor.
The proposed project would then result in 82 skilled nursing beds, 61 CBRF units, 40 residential care apartment complex units and 40 Independent Living Duplexes.
The proposal also includes construction of a wellness center designed specifically for geriatric use.
Bethany Home residents, as well as community members, would have access to programs and fitness equipment designed for senior citizens.
Pauline Darling, chief executive officer of Bethany Home, said the proposal is the result of three years of research and discussion.
The board decided to redesign the campus to meet the needs of the community’s senior citizens, she said.
Darling said the nursing home facility does not meet currently life safety codes – without waivers.
Nationwide, the dementia (memory care) population is rising, and she said locally, there is not an adequate supply of such facilities to meet that demand.
Bethany Home is requesting the zoning change from Single-Family Residence District to Multiple-Family Residence District.
Kane said the current zoning permits a maximum height of 35 feet on a principal structure.
The proposed three-story building would have an eve height of 35 feet and roof average of about 43 feet, he said.
“I’ve been working with them several months,” Kane said.
Bethany Home proposed a taller structure to maintain the residential character of the neighborhood and so that the mechanicals on the roof could also be obscured, he said.
If a flat roof was part of the project, a rezoning would not be necessary. Then, the mechanicals would be visible.
During the public hearing, some area residents spoke in favor of the project, while others voiced their concerns about it.
Carol Elvery lives on Shadow Woods Lane and supports the rezoning and special use permit requests.
“This project is in response to changes in elderly care,” she said.
Jeff Oestreich lives on Lamplighter Lane and represented Bethany Home’s board when he spoke.
He said the project would enable Bethany Home to provide various levels of care.
“It will enable us to continue our mission of looking after the seniors in the community,” Oestreich said.
Lori Jungers and Jane Legault were among those expressing concerns about the project.
“One house separates Bethany from my yard,” said Jungers, who lives on Berlin Street.
She said the project will result in less green space and more traffic.
“My neighborhood is Single-Family Dwelling, and that is what I want it to stay,” Jungers said.
Legault lives next to Bethany Home and presented a petition signed by 15 people who are opposed to the rezoning.
She said they are opposed to the rezoning because they think it will decrease the value of their properties, affect safety due to an increase in traffic, affect sewer and water and result in noise and environmental pollution as construction takes place.
Legault and others said the project will decrease the amount of green space on the campus.
Bethany Home’s request for a rezoning to Multiple-Family Residence District means there is a minimum requirement of 50 percent open space on the property.
However, with the proposed addition, there would be 35 percent open space on it. Currently, about 40 percent of the property is green space.
Aaron Koch, senior project manager and director of engineering at Pinnacle Engineering Group in Brookfield, said plans call for keeping all the mature trees on the property and adding close to 70 new trees.
Rain gardens and natural prairie areas are also part of the plan.
Koch said the rain gardens will help keep a lot of water on the site and not send much to the Crystal River or Shadow Lake.
Darling said Bethany Home held a neighborhood meeting, and she wants to hear from neighbors about what kind of a buffer they want to see on the property line.
Kane said the Plan Commission does have the ability to relax the green space requirements and added that the proposed rain gardens are good gesture.
During the Commission’s meeting, he also noted that city has started a discussion about increasing Bethany Home’s Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) fees to the city.
In 1987, Bethany Home entered into an agreement with the city to pay PILOT fees to offset police, fire and emergency service costs.
Since an addition is part of the proposed project, the city is negotiating to increase those fees.
City staff is recommending that a new agreement will have to be in place before any permits are issued for the project.
At one point in the meeting, Olson directed his question to Bethany Home’s neighbors when he asked, “What would appease you?”
“I want more of a boundary between our property and Bethany,” Jungers said.
Legault said they have not been told what kind of trees, or how many, will be planted.
She said a three-story building would be a “blight” on the rest of the neighborhood.
While there may be a need for these type of facilities, Legault said she does not think it should be built there.
Both Olson and Kjelland said they wanted to look at the site before making a decision.
“At this point, I don’t see us stopping the project, but I want the neighbors to feel they got a say about the buffer,” Olson said.
Kjelland said he was also leaning that way, especially since the project is in the city’s 5th Aldermanic District. He represents that district on the Common Council.
“The first I found out about it (the proposed project) is when I got my (Plan Commission) packet,” he said.
Ald. Deb Fenske was among those who attended the Nov. 11 public hearing on the two requests.
“You should have been out there to look at this,” she said to them. “These people have waited long enough.”
Perhaps Bethany Home should maybe meet with concerned citizens again and clarify things, Smith said.
Kane said he is willing to facilitate such a meeting.