HONEY BROOK - A retirement community with over 50 years of service in the township announced its expansion plans for the next 25 years.
The growth is spurred by the projected explosion of the retirement-age population spurred by the baby boom-ers.
Tel Hai Retirement Com-munity was founded in 1956 when the Conestoga Men-nonite Church of Morgan-town and Maple Grove Mennonite Church of At-glen's summer camp was relocated to the present Bea-ver Dam Road site. After the relocation, a 14-bed "rest home" for the elderly was founded, which evolved into the present retirement community.
Between 1971 and 1995, the retirement community built 97 residential-living cottages aimed at accommodating active seniors. In the intervening years, Tel Hai expanded its operations to include a skilled healthcare facility, rent-subsidized ap-artments for seniors, a personal care facility offering assistance with daily living together with adult and child daycare services.
Tel Hai President Joseph J. Swartz said his retirement community must grow to remain competitive with other retirement communities in Southeastern Penns-ylvania, and its five-phase expansion plan hopes to do that.
Chester County Planning Commission data show the county ranks fifth in the commonwealth in terms of the growth of its senior population. Between 2000 and 2005, the county gained 40,526 additional senior citizens for a total of 9.4 percent.
Projections show the county's senior population will experience a 110 percent increase between now and 2025, compared with a 49 percent increase throughout Pennsylvania.
"Southeastern Pennsyl-vania is one of the highest areas in the region that is penetrated by retirement communities," Swartz said. "To be competitive, we would be failing in our mission if we did not increase the senior housing that will be needed in the future."
Future plans focus on expanding the number of independent living cottages tailored for "active seniors," mostly in their early to mid 70s.
Swartz said Tel Hai's rural setting in the township makes it attractive to seniors, and the retirement community is reflective of the surrounding area because Ches-ter County residents are its "bread and butter."
A smaller number of residents come from Mont-gomery County, Delaware County, and eastern Lan-caster County.
"We have a variety of different types of people that we admit who need a differing level of services," Swartz said.
Tel Hai plans to change its current business model that concentrates an even amount of resources to nursing, dementia, assisted living and independent living. The new model will place more emphasis on independent living as the bottom of a pyramid and the other aspects in declining emphasis on the pyramid.
Swartz said the growth in uncompensated healthcare over the past decade has made this change necessary because it has provided $7 million in unreimbursed care to residents receiving either Medicare or Medicaid.
At the same time, contributions have failed to keep pace with costs.
Presently, Tel Hai has 350 full-time and part-time em-ployees, with a payroll of $11.35 million annually, who provide services for its nearly 500 residents, many of whom are active in the surrounding community.
Since 1999, the retirement community's volunteers have contributed 125,-000 hours of service to various organizations and $10,-000 annually to non-profit organizations such as the Honey Brook Ambulance, Honey Brook Fire Company, the Honey Brook Library and township government.
Residents of the faith-based institution have opportunities to participate in service in the on-site chapel or in other local churches.
Swartz said Tel Hai has worked well in the past with the township to obtain the necessary variances for previous expansions and he expects the same cooperation in the future.
Township Manager Mike Brown declined to comment on the plan, saying he had not seen it.
"They have submitted a concept sketch plan that will be examined by the planning commission at their May 25 meeting," Brown said.
The final phase of the plan will take place between 2026 and 2031.
During phase one, slated to last from 2006 through 2011, the community would add 23 independent living cottages, expanded community gardens with a possible greenhouse for resident enjoyment.
Phase two, lasting from 2011 through 2016, would add 47 independent living cottages, a new access drive, perimeter buffer plantings and infrastructure improvements.
The third phase, slated from 2016 through 2021, would expand across Beaver Dam Road onto a 63-acre parcel of land Tel Hai acquired last year, adding 26 independent living cottages, 57 independent living apartments, outdoor space amenities and another community center.
During phase four, between 2021 and 2026, 27 independent living cottages, 50 independent living cottages, recreational vehicle maintenance and storage facilities and a nature trail would be added.
In the final phase, between 2026 and 2031, 31 independent living cottages and a community amphitheater would be added.
Retirement community spokesman Bruce Mowday said residents who attended a discussion on the plans last Wednesday greeted them with enthusiasm because they see the expansion as a return on their investment.