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WARE — Ware’s population is growing increasingly older. Yet, most homes in the town are not ideal for older adults and other options are limited without further development, Becky Basch, land use and environment senior planner for Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, reported at the Planning Board’s Jan. 18 meeting.

During a presentation, Basch informed the board of Ware’s current availability for senior housing and recommended future steps for increasing housing as well as making it more accessible. She explained that the report was consolidated after analyzing Ware data and holding an event to speak directly with residents.

Within the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s research, the organization found that 40% of houses in Ware are more than 65 years old and would require modifications to fully meet the needs of an older adult, Basch said.

There are housing options currently open in the town, including units at Ware Housing Authority and Church Street School, apartments at Hillside Village and Highland Village, and assisted living housing at Cedarbrook Village, Basch said. Yet, these facilities have multi-year long waiting lists and are not affordable for many residents.

To combat this issue, Basch suggested several options for the town to investigate. These included increasing the density of current neighborhoods, amending zoning laws to allow detached dwellings and increase affordable options, and building more care facilities or tiny homes. She also recommended researching what homes are currently suitable and affordable for older adults in town as well as how to encourage developers to build more housing or renovate currently available buildings.

Following Basch’s presentation, the Planning Board agreed that building new developments was unrealistic and that the town should focus on modifying homes or currently available buildings for senior housing.

Planning Board member Chris DiMarzio emphasized that constructing new buildings was too costly for small or local developers because rent collection was unreliable and regulations are too restrictive.

Vice Chair Richard Starodoj agreed and stated that unused buildings such as Mary Lane Hospital would work well for senior housing if properly renovated. He highlighted the hospital’s ideal layout, location and parking availability for housing units, in addition to its historic value.

Moving forward, Basch said she would look into the board’s additional recommendations and reconnect later to finalize how to proceed with the senior housing issue.

Tractor Supply

The Planning Board also reapproved the site plan for a 21,900 square foot Tractor Supply building and 75-space parking lot on 256 West St.

Darling and Solli Engineering Project Manager Casey Burch had presented the original site plan to the board during its Dec. 7, 2023, meeting. At this time, the board requested minor changes to the plan and approved it under the condition that these changes would be met. Since the Dec. 7 meeting, the project was also approved by the Conservation Commission and Board of Health.

The Planning Board’s secondary approval on Jan. 18 was designed to finalize its decision.

At the prior meeting, the board highlighted additional protections needed to block noise and light for residents in the Brookside Manor apartments to the east of the property.

In his update, Burch confirmed that these changes had been made in the revised site plan.

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