Senior housing a key issue at New Castle meeting

Ryan Hoffman
An approximately 22-acre parcel of land, shaded in blue, directly east of New Castle that the town is considering buying.
Provided |

NEW CASTLE — Residents strongly supported some form of senior housing Tuesday evening at a meeting to discuss development ideas for 22 acres of land that the town could purchase.

The approximately 60 people in attendance broke into smaller groups, and one after another, representatives from each group got up to share development ideas. While a range of suggestions were presented, each group referenced housing for seniors.

“Senior housing was a big topic at our table,” New Castle Police Chief Tony Pagni reported to the room.

The town currently is in a one-year contract option to purchase 22.45 acres, located north of Interstate 70 and just east of the New Castle boundary line, from Robert and Kathleen Kuersten for $800,000. The town has until Aug. 6 to move on the contract before it expires.

One thought to broaden the idea of care beyond just seniors was particularly interesting and worth further investigating.

Bruce Leland
New Castle Mayor Pro Tem

Attention in those early discussions on the land centered around the possibility of using it for senior care and housing.

Town Administrator Tom Baker reminded the crowd Tuesday that the ultimate goal is to create family supporting jobs that help build the community.

A demand analysis commissioned by the town concluded that projects elsewhere in the region could diminish the immediate demand for higher-level senior care facilities, but that did not prevent support for the broader topic of senior housing.

Even vocal supporters of those ideas, though, mentioned the desire to see more diversified plans for the property.

Ideas included a field house or recreation center that would draw people of different age groups. Community needs, such as a child care, also would work toward more age-diverse use of the property.

One thought to broaden the idea of care beyond just seniors was particularly interesting and worth further investigating, said Bruce Leland, mayor pro tem.

Other long-term care, specifically for mental health and substance abuse, is greatly needed in the area and a facility on the property could provide an avenue for addressing that need, Leland said.

While there could be opposition from neighbors with a “not in my backyard mentality,” he stated that the idea should not be completely dismissed.

The meeting and ideas exchanged elicited some excitement from Jo Anne Anderson, who lives off of Highway 82 south of Carbondale.

Anderson has been spearheading a group dubbed the Senior Housing Coalition, a group of residents that meets twice a month to discuss the housing needs for middle-income seniors who do not qualify for subsidized housing. The possible land purchase by New Castle has been a discussion topic at recent coalition meetings.

Anderson said much of the conversation in her small group focused on the senior housing matter, but the group also felt inclusion was important. Along the lines of the suggested recreation center, Anderson pitched the idea of an Olympic-sized pool that also could be used by the area high schools.

Diversity, both economically and in terms of age, will be important to any successful future development that might happen, said Kate Gazunis, executive director of the Garfield County Housing Authority.

It is simple, she added, people want decent housing. That includes younger individuals or families looking to buy and home as well as seniors look to downsize to something smaller.

The town intends to send out a request for proposal from developers this week, Baker said.

While the request will be sent out to six developers that deal specifically with senior housing and care facilities, he added the town will supply the request, as well as a report recapping Tuesday’s meeting, to any interested developer.

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