Residents of Visions at the Shore are split on the best future for the senior housing complex.
While some continue to believe in the concept of a senior-only complex on Pitney Road, others have joined efforts with project owner Amboy Bank to ask the city to remove the senior designation and allow a proposal for a 400-unit complex for all ages instead. Visions is currently approved for 369 units for residents 55 and over.
Owners who support the change say the current plan will never come to fruition, and the new proposal would be their only chance to get out of their original investment.
But those who want to stay at the complex as it is say there will be enough interest to fill a seniors-only Visions as the market rebounds and the owners properly market the site.
Amboy Bank’s application before the city’s Zoning Board was finally completed Tuesday after six full meetings of testimony. Amboy attorney Jack Plackter reiterated to the board that the complex faces many hardships because the real estate market for senior housing is stagnant.
The board will vote on the plan at its Dec. 18 meeting. Some city residents have opposed the plan, saying the changes would cause a burden to the schools, and city services and add traffic on Pitney Road.
Amboy is asking the board to approve a plan for 400 units, including 60 affordable housing units, for the site. After approval, the bank would sell it to a developer to create the new plan.
“We believe ... it would be in the public’s interest to approve this,” Plackter said.
There are 42 units already built on the site — 17 of which have been sold — and the rest being rented by Amboy. In the past several weeks, Amboy has reached a deal with about 10 owners and is in negotiations with others to support the bank’s plan, Plackter said.
The owners must vote to change the deed to lift the age restriction before the board makes its decision at the Dec. 18 meeting. Plackter said he expects a majority of the owners will support the bank’s proposal before the vote is taken.
As owners of 25 of the 42 properties, Amboy has the majority vote, but Plackter said he expects a majority of the 17 other owners will also support their proposal.
Stephen Patron, an Amboy consultant, said the residents need to move on from Visions.
“They bought into a lifestyle. It’s a nightmare. It’s not going to change unless either we change it or the town changes it or both,” he said. “Once you realize it’s not going to be what you thought it would be, the next focus should be how do I get out of here? I can’t wait 20 to 30 years for this lifestyle. How do I get out of here?”
The residents who are siding with Amboy said they lost their investment and are frustrated at the state of the complex. They said they have given up on the original idea of the complex and wanted an opportunity to leave.
Resident Lewis Leitner said Amboy’s offer would make the owners whole.
“It wasn’t going to move forward in any way, shape or form. We have to give up on that,” he said. “There was no decision to make. Nothing was happening.”
He said he bought his home in 2008 but said 2½ ago he wanted to leave. Leitner said the bank would give the owners options to relocate.
“You have a real estate market crash, and you realize you have no flexibility, and your home is essentially worthless,” he said. “Until the bank gave us this opportunity.”
Bernard and Barbara Roswell bought their home in April 2009 and originally fought the Amboy plan. But the couple said they have known for a long time the senior complex would not make it and reached an agreement with the bank.
“It’s obviously not what we bought into,” Barbara Roswell said. “We’re trying to help it move along. It’s been very difficult for us.”
Resident John Douris said he cannot sell or get financing on his home and asked the board Tuesday to approve the proposal.
“This is our only way out,” he said.
But others want to remain and said the Visions senior housing concept can still work. They said Visions has not done enough to market the complex.
Resident Bob Vargo, who said he was aware of only four residents with an agreement with Amboy, said the rest of the owners are still committed to living in a senior community.
“We love Visions, we love living in Absecon,” he said. “It’s wonderful. I have no intention of leaving.”
Vargo said with the complex’s proximity to Atlantic City there will be enough seniors to fill the complex.
“All you need is a few hundred baby boomers who want to be close to Atlantic City,” he said. “Saying Visions will not fill is ridiculous.”
Visions resident Tom Melchiorie said building 400 units at the site would be too much of a burden on the city.
“I’m concerned of the ramifications of what could happen here,” he said.
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