HUNTINGTON Residents Fight Plans For Assisted Living Facility
Old Northport Road neighbors say proposal would destroy quality of life
Residents of Old Northport Road, a street tucked away behind a busy commercial corridor on East Main Street, enjoy the quiet, secluded nature of their neighborhood. But a development company’s proposal to build an 87-unit assisted living facility on a vacant strip of land is causing a disturbance to residents in the area.
Benchmark Senior Living, a Wellesley, Mass.-based company, picked the property in 2011 as a potential development site for a 71,133 square-foot, three-story assisted living facility. The Town of Huntington Planning Board in August 2012 received a conceptual plan for the facility drawn by RMS Engineering in Huntington.
According to William Bonesco, Benchmark’s attorney for the company’s first Long Island project, the developer will apply for a zoning variance that would convert the property from the current R-10 residential and C-3 special zoning to R-HS residential health service zoning.
A number of residents, however, strongly oppose the plan. Connie Scaglione, who has lived on Old Northport Road with her husband for the last 30 years, said she submitted a petition to the town clerk containing 248 signatures of Huntington residents who oppose the plan.
According to Bonesco, Benchmark, who sent representatives to work with neighbors in the area for feedback on the plan, delayed the timeline of the project out of respect for residents. In addition, the developer and engineers, responding to stakeholders concerns, have modified the conceptual plan several times, including a promise that access to the site would be limited to East Main Street, he added.
But Scaglione and neighboring residents say that the proposed facility would destroy the character of the residential neighborhood, downgrade quality of life, negatively impact property values and congest traffic.
The assisted living facility would also require a loading area for trucks, a view that would replace the wooded landscape Old Northport Road residents enjoy today, as well as a sewage facility on site.
Scaglione and her husband, Jim, submitted a letter to town officials Oct. 31 outlining 16 reasons why the facility would negatively impact the neighborhood. That letter was attached to another addressing their neighbors and informing them about the development plan.
The couple, weary the plan will appear on a town board agenda and subsequently voted on before it is too late, had a private meeting with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson and have scheduled meetings with two other council members, as well as Supervisor Frank Petrone, to hash out their concerns.
“It’s nerve-wrecking to think this could go on to the agenda and we don’t know it. It’s a nice façade, but it doesn’t belong here. It would destroy the neighborhood,” Scaglione said. “It’s very personal and very threatening.”
According to a preliminary agenda, town officials intended to schedule a public hearing at the March 5, 2013 board meeting but removed the topic from the agenda at a workshop earlier that day.
Town spokesman A.J. Carter and Bonesco said in separate interviews the hearing was pulled from the agenda at Benchmark’s request. The developing company, both parties said, was discouraged by the lack of neighbors’ support.
Jonathan Osmun, a 15-year resident of Old Northport Road, said the facility would cause his property value to “plummet.” The installation of a septic tank, within several hundred feet of his backyard, is “the most egregious quality-of-life issue,” he added.
Many homeowners in the area, Scaglione added, rely on a well water supply which she and other residents fear will be condemned as a result of the sewage tank. Osmun shared his neighbor’s concern over waste “leeching” from the septic tank onto private residential properties.
“It’s just a mess, a total mess; and our Island needs these facilities but certainly not in this type of residential area. I love it [here], but I’m not going to love it as much with this thing next door,” Osmun said.
The 6.39-acre property is currently owned by Scott Appelmann, an East Northport resident who abandoned previous plans to develop the land.
Bonesco said Benchmark Developers hope that if approved, the facility will be operational sometime in 2015 after a six- to nine-month construction period. The company applied for a frontage variance with the planning board last month and required another variance for parking. Retaining walls, Bonesco added, would be a necessary buffer for the sewage tank.