$9.6M grant spurs seniors home plan

Plan calls for a community in Ghent that follows ‘Camphill model’ 

GHENT–The state has awarded a $9.6-million grant to a new project that will build a “community” of senior housing units along Route 66 just south of the Village of Chatham. The non-profit group receiving the money, Camphill Ghent, is a separate entity associated with Camphill Village in Copake, and some, though not all of the 72 people expected to live there will be adults with developmental disabilities.

Camphill Ghent still needs to raise an additional $6 million for what William Vogt, the group’s president, called phase one of the project. Mr. Vogt, who is also treasurer of Camphill Village, said this week that if the project can obtain the necessary permits from Ghent, Chatham and state agencies, he hopes to begin construction by early next year and have people living in the community by late 2011.

The site for the proposed project is the former Hundred Acre Farm on the west side of the highway south of the Chatham Plaza. Despite the name, Mr. Vogt says the property actually covers 110 acres and was not a working farm but rather a second home when Camphill Ghent bought it about a year and a half ago.

The plan calls for three types of housing: 27 adult care units, 24 “co-housing” units and 12 independent living units. Mr. Vogt, who described the property as “exquisite” and “perfectly suited for our plans,” said that the buildings would be arranged in clusters and would use relatively little of the land.

Ghent town Supervisor Larry Andrews said this week that had met with Camphill Ghent representatives “a couple of times” prior to the announcement of the grant. He said he believed the application for the project might have to come before the Town Board rather than the Planning Board.

Chatham is involved because it supplies water to the hamlet of Ghent and to properties along Route 66 between the village and the hamlet.

The state grant comes through a program called HEAL NY (Health Care Efficiency and Affordability Law of New York State), an economic development initiative started during the Pataki administration that offers incentives to “right-size” healthcare facilities and improve the efficiency in the delivery of care, said Claudia Hutton, director of public affairs for the state Department of Health. She said the new facilities at Camphill Ghent would “absolutely” have to comply with all local zoning ordinances. The project will also have to obtain operating licenses from the state health department and from the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

The grant money–$436 million statewide this year–is part of the state budget already appropriated and seems unlikely to be threatened by cuts as the state wrestles with its increasing fiscal problems. The Camphill Ghent project was chosen out of a pool of 83 applicants statewide in its category.

Ms. Hutton said using mixed housing types for senior living facilities means “getting away from the idea of a skilled nursing facility,” because the new approach offers residents “more home-like” living arrangements.

“The whole point is to create a community,” said Mr. Vogt. The idea for such a community emerged from discussions at Camphill Village, where board members looked for ways that older developmentally disabled adults could live in a distinct community of their own. Like Camphill Village, where people without disabilities live with and care for the “villagers,” Mr. Vogt envisions the new project as having a mix of residents along with care givers. He said the whole project would be based on the Camphill model, which he explained in part as “a community of adults, some with developmental disabilities, living together in harmony.” He added that the guiding principle was that people with developmental disabilities have “the right to live with integrity and surrounded by culture.”

The Camphill movement has 13 communities in North America. Copake, which has operated for nearly 50 years, is one of the oldest and largest. The movement was founded by Karl König, with Christian roots based on Rudolph Steiner’s principles of Anthroposophy. But Mr. Vogt said Camphill Ghent has no religious affiliation of any kind and has no religious test or standard for applicants.

He said prior to applying for the state funds, the group hired a consultant to conduct a market survey. The results indicated people wanted a community setting with various levels of care for seniors along the lines of the one already under consideration for Camphill Ghent, said Mr. Vogt.

Earlier this month, the Pine Haven Committee of the county Board of Supervisors discussed similar home-like living situations for seniors. The committee ultimately recommended that the county replace the Pine Haven Nursing Home in Philmont with a new skilled nursing facility. The committee is headed by Mr. Andrews, the Ghent supervisor.

The site of the proposed Camphill Ghent project is a short distance from the subsidized senior housing project behind the Chatham Plaza.

Mr. Vogt said the remaining $6 million needed to complete the project would be raised through additional outside funding and from “some level of debt financing.” He said he and the other members of Camphill Ghent are still working on raising the money.

For the moment, the house will remain on the property, but it is not suitable for conversion for the type of housing proposed and would most likely serve as an administrative building, said Mr. Vogt.

Comments are closed.