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PTC not warm for senior apartment proposal

A company’s plan to build age-restricted senior apartments was presented to the Peachtree City Council Tuesday night.

By the end of the meeting, however, Mayor Don Haddix told NorSouth representatives that Council isn’t convinced the concept would work well in Peachtree City.

NorSouth wants to build an apartment complex restricted to seniors 62 and above with three story buildings served by elevators, said company vice president David Dixon. NorSouth is looking for around 100 units on a 3.5 to 5-acre tract.

The company is aiming to have rents range from the mid-600s for one bedroom units up to between $900 and $1,000 for two-bedroom units which are the most popular in its existing senior apartment portfolio, Dixon said. Some 86 percent of the company’s clients are living on their own, but they like having a second bedroom that can be used for guests and/or as an office or den area, Dixon said.

The housing is not subsidized in any way as all NorSouth’s clients are private pay, Dixon said.

About half of NorSouth’s clients decided to move so they could be close to their grandchildren and adult children, Dixon said. The age restriction would be part of the zoning and the deed restrictions on the property, and grandchildren for example would be allowed to stay for no longer than a weekend for example, Dixon said. NorSouth hasn’t had any problems enforcing those rules at its existing properties, he added.

“It’s a very fast growing market with a lot of demand,” Dixon said.

The apartment complex would have a number of amenities for residents including gardening plots, an aerobic exercise room, a game room, a movie room and a Wii area as well. There will also be activities for residents including arts and crafts, a movie night and free health screenings provided by area doctors.

NorSouth also plans to have a small space available to rent inexpensively to host a beauty salon that would be used by residents, Dixon added.
The company would also arrange transportation for errands such as grocery, drugstore and doctor appointments as well as recreational trips to the theater, Dixon added. NorSouth is very interested in having some golf carts on hand for residents to use for their “errand” trips, he said.

The complex would not have any medical staff nor any food service such as a cafeteria, as it is targeted for seniors who are active and independent, Dixon said.

The property would have a full-time manager on site and would also be staffed at night with maintenance workers who are trained to respond to any emergency that might come up, Dixon said. Each unit will have an emergency monitoring system, he added.

Dixon noted the company is building highly energy efficient apartments that have an average electric bill between $40 and $60 a month.
The average apartment size will run from 750 to just over 1,000 square feet. The apartments are aimed at retirees who earn no more than $30,000 a year, he noted.

Haddix asked what would happen if people didn’t fill the apartments after they were built. Dixon replied that while that has never happened before at any of the company's senior apartment complexes, NorSouth would just lower the rents until they did instead of changing the use of the property; the zoning and deed restrictions would limit the property to only be occupied by independent seniors, he added.

Haddix said with no senior apartments in the city a large number of seniors go for individual homes such as his subdivision where “the average age is probably 85.” He asked Dixon where the demand would come for NorSouth’s complex.

Dixon noted that a big reason for seniors to move is the loss of a spouse. He also noted that many seniors don’t want to have to do yard maintenance and would rather live near their adult children and grandchildren.

“Because there’s elevator support and secured entry, staffed around the clock and a high level of luxuries, no maintenance, it’s just kind of an easy decision for a lot of people to make,” Dixon said.

Cecelia Hayes of the Home Source Realtors said she knows NorSouth’s product would go over well in the real estate market.
“I can tell you people want this,” Hayes said.

Examples of existing NorSouth senior apartment communities are Princeton Court in College Park, Highland Court in Kennesaw and Norman Berry Village in East Point.

NorSouth initially looked at moving in behind the Zaxby’s restaurant in the Lexington Circle mixed use center off Ga. Highway 54 east, but the company is now looking at several other possible locations including one in the Kedron area.

Dixon said the company likes the Lexington Circle area but noted NorSouth likes to be near activity areas and shopping areas for residents’ convenience. Proximity to churches and medical care facilities are also important factors, he said.

“We also want a quiet environment for them, real close but off the highway. Your buffering system provides for that,” Dixon said.

Several residents from the Lexington Circle area attended Tuesday’s meeting and while they didn’t seem to be 100 percent convinced it was a good fit, to some it is a much better alternative than the unlandscaped areas of six-foot tall grass that have become home to at least one coyote and some rats, one resident said.

Councilmember Vanessa Fleisch said she thought the product would go over well but she didn’t want to lift the moratorium for it to be built on a site currently not zoned for multifamily use.

“I don’t see that bulidinga whole new complex is the way to go for the city,” Fleisch said.

Councilmember Kim Learnard said the Lexington Circle location is close to McIntosh High School which might cause issues with residents.
Dixon replied that most of NorSouth’s communites have residents who stay in at night.

Planning Commissioner Lynda Wojcik agreed there is a need for such a facility. She noted that her mother in law lives in a similar facility in Missouri though it’s not as nice as the NorSouth communities.

Wojcik noted that the senior apartment complex would not have any property tax breaks for city or school taxes.

It was suggested that NorSouth should consider redeveloping an existing apartment complex. But architect Bill Foley who has been working with NorSouth noted that would be fairly expensive and wouldn’t allow the company to hit its target rents.

Planning Commissioner Larry Sussberg said he liked some things about the project and while he’s generally against apartments in Peachtree City he felt NorSouth is addressing a very specific need.

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