BRATTLEBORO—Members of the team behind a planned expansion and renovation of the Bradley House residential-care facility presented their preliminary designs to the Development Review Board (DRB) March 21.
The Bradley House provides congregate housing — independent living with opportunities for shared activities — and nursing care for senior residents. The home merged with Holton Home in December.
Bradley House Executive Director Cindy Jerome said Holton Home has undergone multiple renovations, improvements, and upgrades during the past 15 years, while the Bradley House building, formally known as Hilltop House, is woefully out of date. The planned renovation project would address safety, accessibility, and quality-of-life issues. Work on bathrooms, a dining room, and a kitchen are also part of the plan.
Along with renovations inside the existing building and 1970s era addition, the project also calls for a new addition that would house seven “suites,” each consisting of a bedroom and a small living area.
According to Jerome, residents would rent the suites for more than the facility’s existing single rooms. The higher rents would help underwrite rooms rented by residents on Medicaid.
No formal decisions
Plans to upgrade the 19th-century mansion are in their early stages. The DRB didn’t make any formal decisions at the meeting, but did recommend the design team consider the landscaping, storm water, parking, and other site-design standards.
Cory Frehsee and Jon Saccoccio of Stevens & Associates, PC, part of the design team behind the project, had questions of their own for the DRB.
Frehsee and Saccoccio brought their early designs to the board to solicit feedback prior to submitting a formal application. They also asked the board how the project might fit with recent changes in the town’s zoning rules, which include new zoning districts.
The Bradley House has an existing Planned Unit Development (PUD).
PUDs are a planning tool that can provide projects with some zoning wiggle room. Projects must meet the overall land-use and density regulations, but may not need to strictly conform to the zoned area.
In the case of the Bradley House, the building is located in a residential zone. The PUD gives permission, however, to provide congregate housing and expand the building as part of its business.
Frehsee and Saccoccio asked if the existing PUD still applied under the town’s recently adopted zoning regulations and were told that it did, though DRB Chair James Valente cautioned that this was only an opinion at this early stage and not a formal decision.
Valente also noted there could be Vermont laws he is not aware of that might negate the existing PUD.
Neighbors voice concerns
At the meeting, two residents of the Harris Avenue neighborhood raised concerns about the planned work.
Jeanie Crosby said she felt that Bradley House staff should have communicated their plans to the neighbors sooner. While the residents had scheduled a meeting with Jerome for March 22, Crosby said the abutters still had concerns about traffic, noise, lighting, landscaping, and water runoff.
Laurie Chiperfield, whose property abuts the Bradley House to the north, said she worried the addition would block sunlight to her property.
A bigger concern, however, was the amount of water that ran off from the Bradley House property into her basement, Chiperfield said. According to Chiperfield, the Brattleboro Fire Department has had to pump out her basement. She worried that the new addition could make matters worse.
Valente said the town’s new, more stringent storm-water regulations will require the Bradley House project team to address runoff and that these regulations might improve things on Chiperfield’s property.
Responding to Chiperfield’s further questions, Valente said the DRB could not weigh in on issues such as cost or recommend a project move elsewhere, saying that the DRB’s role is solely to determine if a project meets the regulations and zoning for a particular area. If so, he said, the DRB would approve the proposal.