Supervisors approved a special use permit for an assisted living facility to be constructed on a farm in Aroda.
The request, made by Roman Summy, will allow the creation of an assisted living facility on 12.18 acres of a 116.1 acre property. The facility will be based on a household concept with two detached housing structures serving a total of 30 residents. Each house will be supervised by a married couple who live within the structure.
“You walk in the front door and are in the elders’ living room, just like walking into a house,” Summy said. The business will also include some accessory farm-style structures.
The facility will carry on the ministry created by Summy’s grandfather who started a similar facility in Stuarts Draft and then Fauquier. Upon his passing, his sons, Summy’s uncles, took over the business. They currently operate a variety of facilities including Our Father’s House in Culpeper.
“We really see the need to go small and keep the household, farm feel,” Summy said. “We’ll have a little barn behind the homes where [residents] can take a wheelchair into the stable. The farm is a big part of this.”
Summy’s uncle, Melvin Bender, said the idea is to keep the elderly connected to agriculture and nature. He also said the household concept allows generations to interact since the supervising couple’s children also live in the home.
“[Residents] can see sunsets and sunrises,” he said. “End of life care is a huge issue. There’s a tremendous emphasis to keep the farm setting. It’s generations coming together, hearing the animals and staying connected.”
Summy said the project will be built in phases, starting with the first housing structure. He and his wife will serve as the supervising couple. The facility will also employ other workers as well as a household doctor and nurse.
“’The key is the husband and wife oversight,” he said. “When families go home, my wife and I are still there to make sure everything is okay.”
Summy said the concept is really one family, helping another family.
“Our father started us down this road of ministry to the elderly,” Summy’s uncle Raymond Bender said. “A ministry is how our family looks at it. It’s physical care and emotional and spiritual care as well.”
Planning commissioner Fay Utz noted that Our Father’s House has a positive reputation.
“It’s a fabulous place,” she said. “People are in line to get their loved ones in there.”
Neighbor William McGinnis wasn’t as convinced. During public comment, he said he owns 40 acres near the Aroda property which Summy plans to use. He said an assisted living facility is incompatible with the general agricultural characteristics of the area. He said it could change the agricultural focus and be a forerunner for future commercial developments.
“Once you allow one, it’s a slippery slope,” he said.
He also said he worried about increased traffic on Beautiful Run Road, which he said is already dangerous. He also worried about the response times of first responders and said something like an assisted living facility belongs closer to those services.
Chris Hawk with the Piedmont Environment Council encouraged board members to ensure the property would only be used as intended.
Supervisor Jonathon Weakley pointed out that an assisted living facility is not a new concept to Madison County. He also said there are numerous assisted living facilities in agricultural areas. He said renderings of the proposed concept were very pleasing aesthetically and were not representative of a large facility.
Planning commissioners recommended the application be approved, 8-0.
Supervisors approved the special use permit application 4-0. Supervisor Amber Foster was absent.