Developers of assisted living communities face a significant hurdle whenever the local planning commission challenges their projects. The planning board is a political entity; its members are either elected or appointed and as such they often respond to public pressure. If a proposed project attracts vocal opponents, developers will need to make alliances that will counter bad publicity.
Financing for a planned assisted living home is dependent on a feasibility study. The feasibility study will analyze the market and determine whether the project is likely to turn a profit. The feasibility study includes getting the necessary permits from various agencies (utility companies, DOT, business permit,etc.) and getting the approval from the planning commission.
The planning commission is likely to ask the developers to make changes to their projects, particularly in city/suburban regions. The requests or suggestions of a planning commission can dramatically alter a project. An example would be reducing a four-story building to three or two stories. Another would be requiring a smaller footprint for the building. Developers can apply for a variance, which would free them from some or all of the zoning restrictions, but the variance application might be rejected. The developer will abandon the project if the changes he’s asked to make cost too much.
The developers of assisted living communities which target upper middle class seniors prefer city and suburban locations for their projects. Local planning boards, which are more stringent in densely populated areas, take on a crucial role in determining the project’s success. A developer who sees his plan approved can breathe easier!
Planning Commissions Which go the Other Way
Planning commissions have also been accused of being too close to developers. This zoning board in New Orleans split on how it defines “assisted living” so it could grant the Archdiocese approval for building a large, senior housing project.