Official: Kings Park senior housing must wait for hearing

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Smithtown's town board must wait until an environmental study is completed before it can hold a public hearing on a proposed senior housing project in Kings Park, the town attorney has advised the board.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio had said last month he hoped to expedite the town's review of the proposed Uplands at St. Johnland by conducting a hearing on the controversial project.

But in a June 25 memo, town attorney John Zollo said the town Planning Board must first complete its review of the Society of St. Johnland's petition for a zoning code amendment that would allow construction of the 199-unit facility on Sunken Meadow Road. The society operates the century-old St. Johnland Nursing Home in Kings Park.

The town board typically awaits a planning board recommendation before voting on zoning issues. The planning board does not plan to issue a recommendation on the Uplands until the town Planning Department completes a review of the facility's potential impact on the environment.

"Once completed, the Planning Board would then complete its review of the petition," Zollo said in the memo, which Vecchio provided to Newsday. "Consequently, it would be premature for the Town Board to take any action with regard to the petition until the Planning Board has completed its review process."

Vecchio said he was disappointed but he would abide by the memo. "We're precluded from holding the public hearing," he said last week. Vecchio said at a town board meeting last month that he would vote against the project.

It is unclear when the environmental impact study will be completed, because planners are awaiting St. Johnland's responses to critical comments made last year at a public hearing.

Vincent Trimarco, an attorney for St. Johnland, said the society is "pretty much done" with its responses. He applauded Zollo's advice to the town board.

"That's what I expected," he said. "The town attorney is just following the law, and that's all we asked them to do."

Some Kings Park residents have said the project's size and density are out of character with the neighborhood.

"Smithtown residents need to be concerned," said Kings Park Civic Association president Sean Lehmann, "because this project, if approved, has potential to set a precedent that would impact negatively every residential community in the Smithtown area."

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