Panel gives green light to Alzheimer’s facility

By Kari Williams

South county residents with mild to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease could have a new housing option by April.

Avalon Memory Care, a Texas-based company, received unanimous approval from the county Planning Commission last week for a zoning change and a conditional use permit, or CUP, to build an assisted-living facility on the northwest side of Tesson Ferry Road and the southeast side of Butler Hill Road.

The proposal, which must receive final approval from the County Council, would allow for two, one-story, 10,000-square-foot buildings to be built on the 2.9 acre site. Each building will be able to accommodate up to 20 patients.

Chris Seib of Avalon Memory Care, who has lived in St. Louis since the 1980s, told the Call the company believed south county was lacking in “Alzheimer’s care in a small, home-like setting.”

The facility, according to Seib, will offer a “high ratio of caregiver to resident” and freedom for its residents.

“In our setting, there’s zero confrontation,” Seib said. “For example, if a resident wants to stay up and watch the late movie, then they stay up and watch the late movie. Everybody doesn’t have to go to bed at 9 p.m. or whatever the requirement might be …”

Although, he said the facility is secured and residents are prevented from “wandering off.”

The county Department of Planning stated the facility is a “low intensity, low traffic-generating use that is designed to accommodate senior citizens with special needs, and provide services and housing options for them,” according to information provided to the Planning Commission.

Pat Detch of the Department of Planning told the commission the department believes the group home will be a “good transition” from subdivisions to the west of the site and the nursing home/retirement community to the north.

Seib said there is no “institutional look” to the Avalon facilities, but, rather, they appear to be “large, nice, residential homes.”

“I believe in every dealing we’ve had with the county government, they’ve felt like our usage is near perfect for that piece of ground,” Seib said.

Sixth District Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton, told the Call the facility will be a “true amenity” for south county and serve a growing segment of the south county population.

“We, more so than other areas of the county, have a relatively older population living in South St. Louis County,” Stenger said, “and what a facility like this allows for in south county is for our aged members to be able to remain in south county. If they have spent their lives living in south county, they can now be near family and familiar surroundings.”

Stenger wrote a letter to the Missouri Health Facilities Review Committee, or MHFRC, in December, stating, “I believe that the presence of Avalon Memory Care will be a positive step in dealing with the growth of Alzheimer’s in our community. I believe that providing this health care option would be beneficial to the families of those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses and be of major comfort to them.”

Rep. Gary Fuhr, R-Concord, also wrote to MHFRC in support of Avalon’s proposal.

Fuhr stated, “I have no doubt that Avalon’s presence will result in providing the citizens of South St. Louis County with a wider selection of high-quality alternatives in their selection of memory care for their loved ones.”

Total development cost, according to Seib, is estimated at roughly $5 million.

Monthly housing costs for the facility are expected to be $6,200 for a private room and $5,800 for a semiprivate room.

Construction is anticipated to begin in November or December, with opening expected for April, according to Seib, though he said he does not have more specific dates.