Arts & Entertainment

Fellowship Village Expansion and Community Center/Theater Approved

830873bde8432f013e31_FELLOWSHIPVilApproved.jpg
As opponents of the project listen in the audience, including resident George Schenk, center, the Bernards Planning Board votes 4-3 to approve a Fellowship Village expansion. Credits: By Linda Sadlouskos
830873bde8432f013e31_FELLOWSHIPVilApproved.jpg

BERNARDS TWP., NJ - A plan for an expansion and updating of the Fellowship Village Senior Living healthcare center, as well as a multi-purpose community center where Trilogy Theater Company will be based in residence, was approved, 4-3, by the Bernards Planning Board on Tuesday night.

The board's approval follows two-and-a-half years of public hearings, including recent public comment that indicated a sharp divide among residents for and against the expansion and new building on the 72-acre Fellowship Village property off Allen Road.

The three board members who voted against the proposal said they would have voted yes except for the inclusion of a so-called raised "fly tower" over the stage of a planned new 21,000-square-foot theater and community center.

Sign Up for E-News

"In my opinion, the fly tower sticks out like a sore thumb," said board member Paula Axt.

But Planning Board President Jeffrey Plaza, in agreement with the majority of board members, said he did "not have a problem" with the fly tower, from which stage settings, backdrops, and even a movie screen on which movies could be shown for residents, could be lowered.

He said the fly tower -- which would be similar to, but lower and narrower than the raised part of the building over the stage at Ridge High School's Performing Arts Center -- is part of providing residents with a first-class arts center.

In his closing arguments, however, Fellowship Village Attorney Vincent Bisogno stressed that the multi-purpose community center and theater would be used for internal events serving Fellowship Village residents 90 percent of the time.

Those evens will include movie nights, memorial and religious services, and even productions put on by the residents themselves, supporters of the project said.

The 55,000-expansion that is intended to be added onto the existing healthcare center will modernize and create new studio, and one- or two-bedroom units for residents of Fellowship Village in assisted living housing, according to the plans.

The expansion and changes in the assisting living area of the healthcare center will add some much-needed additional beds for elderly residents with dementia or other forms of memory loss, according to Brian Lawrence, president and chief executive officer of Fellowship Village.

Following the board's approval, Lawrence said Fellowship Village will try to obtain construction permits by this fall. The expansion and new building would be constructed as per a 36-month "phased approach" that would minimize impact on residents, Lawrence said.

"I think it will be a wonderful project that will affect so many lives," Lawrence said.

In an interview on Monday, he addressed some of what he said were misinterpretations of information discussed at meetings. For example, he said that the "household" model for assisted living units at the healthcare center would allow residents to chose from studio, one-bedroom or a two-bedroom model, but would add share living room and gathering areas without taking away from the privacy of those living in their own units.

'Don't know' if will appeal the decision

George Schenk, a Fellowship Village resident who with his wife Maya, were vocal critics of the plan, said immediately following the vote that he doesn't know if he will seek to overturn the Planning Board's approval by filing an appeal in state Superior Court.

Among the reasons for his disagreement with the board's vote, Schenk said the plan did not address how the changes at the health center would affect staffing. He added that he did not believe the applicant had submitted a traffic circulation plan for additional traffic on the site.

Afterward, Planning Board Attorney Jonathan Drill said the applicant (Fellowship Village Senior Living) had submitted a traffic circulation plan as part of a traffic impact study, but had also testified about traffic circulation during the hearings, as well as presenting exhibits.

During his comments, Board Member Randy Santoro, who voted in favor of approval of the project, said he felt the Schenks had lengthened the proceedings while they "inundated" the board with information without regard to relevance.

Bernards Township Committeeman John Malay, who also is a member of the Planning Board, said he felt that Fellowship Village had met its "burden of proof" in presenting evidence for the application. For example, he said the plan meets requirements for parking, and he also believes there will be "fine-tuning" of the plans as the process of building is ongoing.

Malay also asked that admission to the plays or other performances at the community center/theater be free for residents, but dropped that request as Plaza pointed out that a quality theater production could have some costs.

However, earlier during the hearings, Fellowship Village had agreed that residents would have the first opportunity to buy tickets for performances, and the ticket costs for residents at Fellowship Village would be discounted.

"I am just relieved that our long wait is over, and we are looking forward to the next phase," Jaye Barre, president of the township-based Trilogy Repertory Company, said following the vote. Trilogy has plans to present two plays per year at the new community center, which would be different from the productions that the locally based theater group presents each summer at Pleasant Valley Park in Basking Ridge.

Planners have said that one production per month, although possibly with multiple stagngs, would also be open to the public as well as residents of Fellowship Village.

 

 

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Basking Ridge

Bedminster Woman Dies From Injuries After Being Struck by Car at Bridgewater Mall Parking Lot

July 12, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Bedminster woman has died from her injuries after being struck by a car in the parking lot of the Bridgewater Commons Mall on Monday.

Marion Kelley, 62, was struck by a vehicle while walking in Lot 4 near the Macy's merchandise pick up area at around 3:20 p.m. Monday.

The 2017 Mazda was driven by Chinmayi Parikh, 33, of Piscataway.

The crash is still being ...

Upcoming Events

Sun, July 22, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Carousel_image_6e5362f4c31ad94d17b9_hunchback_graphic.fb_event_banner

Sun, July 22, 2:00 PM

SOPAC, South Orange

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Arts & Entertainment

Basking Ridge Resident Cycles Toward $52 Million Goal in the 2018 Pan-Mass Challenge

July 19, 2018

Local man will ride to fundraise for live-saving cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

NEEDHAM, MA – On Aug. 4 and 5, Jim Morris of Basking Ridge will cycle up to 192 miles in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) with the goal of topping last year’s record-breaking gift and raising $52 million for critical cancer research and patient care at ...

Avoiding 10% Tax Penalty

Do you want access to money from your retirement accounts but aren't sure of the real costs involved?

Most retirement accounts have a set age requirement you must reach before making penalty-free income distributions, which is usually 59.5 but can sometimes be as early as age 50. If you decide to access your accounts earlier, you could face penalties ranging from 10%-25%, which is not ...