By Kimberly Redmond

http://www.northjersey.com/news/128683838_Emerson_Armenian_Home_proposes_expansion .html
Aug 30 2011

The Emerson Land Use Board is expected to continue hearing an
application by the Emerson Armenian Home for the Aged which proposes
to construct a new facility and knock down the existing building
during its Thursday, Sept. 1 meeting.

According to plans filed with the land use board, the new building,
a 2.5 story, 117-bed health care facility, would be constructed on the
left side of the lot on 70 Main St., bordering Clinton Street. The
existing 86-bed home, located towards the right of the property
bordering Glenwood Avenue, would be demolished upon construction
of the new facility and the patients would be transferred. The
application notes that the project does not require any waivers
since it conforms to all regulations of zoning ordinances and all
requirements of subdivision and site plan review ordinances.

Matthew Russo, the facility's administrator, described the new
building as "a state of the art long-term care center" and said the
Armenian Home for the Aged has been planning the upgrade for at least
16 years. The cost of the project is estimated to be in between $13 to
15 million, a portion of which was the result of fund raising, he said.

"The intent behind the expansion is to alleviate a number of problems
in the area," Russo explained during a Friday morning telephone
interview. Several "associated improvements" such as increased parking
and drainage work are proposed in the application filed with the land
use board.

Russo said the plan helps to reduce traffic on Broad Street by
offering additional parking for staff, doctors and visitors. The
plan proposes the creation of almost 100 spots, which would allow for
vehicles to be parked at the facility, as opposed to on Broad Street,
Russo said. It also calls for the construction of a rear driveway on
Broad Street and a main entrance on Main Street.

The proposed drainage work aims to rectify a flooding problem in the
area of Broad and Samuel streets, Russo said, adding that "it is a
borough problem that we are going to pay to fix." The administrator
said the home plans to upgrade an existing storm drain easement pipe,
which is at least 50 years old and decaying, to a larger size "so it
can move more water quickly."

And while "a lot of the town is behind the project," Russo said,
"some residents are against it."

Residents who live in close proximity to the nursing home have recently
raised concerns that a larger facility could bring about increased
traffic on a street that is already congested during mornings and
afternoons, as two schools are located nearby. According to Russo,
residents expressed concern that additional traffic could be generated
by morning and afternoon shift changes at the home.

In response to the concerns raised, Russo pointed out that the staff
shift changes generally occur well before the flurry of traffic that
accompanies drop-off and pick-up times at Emerson Jr./Sr. High School
and Villano School.

Another resident expressed concern over the proposed placement of
a garbage dumpster at the home. Russo said the plan was modified in
response to that concern and the dumpster has been moved "to a much
better area for placement, so people on Clinton and Broad Street
won't see."

The administrator also went on to point out that while the Armenian
Home, a not-for-profit organization, is exempt from taxes, in 2006
it came to an agreement with the borough to compensate for the use
of borough services. At the time, the Armenian Home intended to move
forward with the project, but the planning board voiced concerns that
an increase in the number of patients at the facility would impose
a greater burden on emergency medical services. The home wound up
proposing a formula to compensate the borough based upon the number
of beds occupied for a calendar year. For example, if 100 to 120 beds
were occupied, the home would pay $1,000 per bed for a grand total
of $20,000 a year.

Ultimately, the Armenian Home opted to hold off on the project since
"the banks said for the size and type of the building" it wished to
construct that it would be best to "save more money" as well as do
additional fund raising.

"We all know this home is unsightly on the outside," Russo said of the
building, which is over 50 years old. "I don't think anyone could argue
with that. So, why would residents want to fight something that would
blend into the residential neighborhood, upgrade the infrastructure
to the town on our own dime and alleviate traffic problems on side
streets while providing a state of the art nursing facility that they
one day might reside in?"

The Emerson Land Use Board will resume hearing the application for
approval of the preliminary site plan and final site plan on Thursday,
Sept. 1 at 8 p.m.