Suffolk County failed to show an "unreasonable hardship" in arguing for a special permit so a private buyer could take over the John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility in Yaphank, the Brookhaven Zoning Board of Appeals said.
In findings explaining its 6-0 vote against the permit last week, the board said the county had no legislative resolution giving it the "authority" to act on behalf of the buyer, and failed to meet any of the four criteria that would have allowed them to issue a permit.
The administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, which sought the permit as a way to complete the $23 million nursing home sale to Israel and Samuel Sherman, lambasted the board's reasoning.
"It's a laughable document," said deputy county executive Jon Schneider. "They should have saved us the trouble and written the decision in crayon."
Legis. John Kennedy (R-Nesconset), who opposes the sale, said the board members, "did what they were supposed to do -- assess and analyze it, based on the law."
Schneider said Bellone is weighing the county's next step. A spokesman for the Shermans did not return calls for comment.
The board found that Suffolk failed to demonstrate that it could not "realize a reasonable rate of return" because in recent years it had allowed the 264-bed facility remain only three quarters full.
"Having elected to operate at a significantly reduced capacity . . . which affects its profitability, the board is not convinced that a reasonable rate of return could not be realized," the board said. "Certainly, the proposed purchaser considered this issue before deciding to purchase the facility and operate it without the need for modification."
While the county maintained that a privatized nursing home would not change the essential character of the area, the board called the "precedent that would be created" by the variance "undeniable." A special use permit could lead to sale of some of the county's adjoining 586 acres as budgets tighten, causing a negative impact on the neighborhood.
Schneider called that reasoning "flawed" and warned it will end up costing taxpayers $30 million in sales price and annual subsidies.