Housing plan elates seniors Development to be Mount Airy's first for the elderly


C. Oscar Baker has spent all of his 71 years in Mount Airy and doesn't want to leave now.

But the upkeep on his three-bedroom home and acre of ground has become too much for him.

"It's a hassle," he said. "There's a lot of grass to cut, and there's a big garden that's getting to be too much."

Mr. Baker and other Mount Airy senior citizens are looking forward to the town's first senior housing community. The project, a development of 32 units for people older than 62, is planned on four acres of a 9.78-acre site at Ridge and Park avenues.

Developer Michael Berman will submit a preliminary site plan for the project at the town Planning and Zoning Commission's next meeting, Nov. 29. He hopes to begin construction on the first 11 units next spring.

Planning for the project dates back nearly three years, when Mr. Berman requested a special zoning exception from the town. He wanted to develop senior housing on his property, which was zoned for low-density residential use on half-acre lots.

About the same time, Mayor Gerald Johnson appointed a committee to study the housing needs of seniors.

When the committee learned of Mr. Berman's plans, it worked with him to get the town to grant the special exception, said Mr. Baker, a committee member.

The Mount Airy Board of Appeals gave initial approval to the project in April.

"We're very proud to have been able to work on this with Mr. Baker," Mr. Berman said. "He has organized the seniors and gotten them involved."

Town planner Teresa Bamberger also worked closely with the committee in obtaining approval for the development.

"There is no housing in Mount Airy, and very little close to the town, designed to accommodate the needs of senior citizens," Ms. Bamberger said.

Called Wildwood Park, the community is to be a combination of duplexes and detached housing, with prices starting at about $80,000, Mr. Berman said.

"It will be an independent residential community, not a nursing home, not assisted living," he said.

Mr. Baker said the committee has compiled a list of 31 people who have expressed interest in Wildwood Park. He said he and his wife plan to buy a home there.

"We're getting calls almost daily from people wanting to be added to the [waiting] list," Mr. Baker said. "People want to get away from the required maintenance of a large house to a smaller house and have some time for other things."

Mr. Baker said the committee also has heard from Mount Airy residents who are interested in the development for parents who are living out of state.

Mr. Berman said he plans to develop a day care center on two acres of the Wildwood Park site and will donate 0.8 acres for a town park.

Plans for the remainder of the property have not been determined, he said.

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