Residents: Senior housing threatens tranquillity

The Society of St. Johnland is seeking to

The Society of St. Johnland is seeking to develop a three-story building containing 175 apartments and town houses, 24 assisted living units and skilled nursing services -- which has some residents worried that the project will shatter the tranquillity they treasure. (Credit: Handout)

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Michael Chicvak gazed out the window of his Kings Park home last week, admiring the deer and red-tailed hawks that he said regularly visit. The pond and woods on the 50-acre property behind his Twin Oaks Drive home provide a sense of solitude for Chicvak, his wife, Joanne, and their three children.

"It's so quiet," Chicvak, 60, said, "that I can hear the cars on the Sagtikos."

But the Smithtown schoolteacher fears that could change if a 199-unit senior housing complex called the Uplands at St. Johnland is built in those woods. He said traffic and noise caused by the project -- proposed by nearby St. Johnland Nursing Center -- would despoil life on the block.


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"This really just completely changes the complexion of why we bought this house and changes the nature of the neighborhood," Chicvak said. "It's truly frightening."

For more than a century, St. Johnland has provided a home to elderly residents requiring acute care, on bucolic grounds just east of Sunken Meadow State Park.

But the nonprofit's plans -- for a three-story building containing 175 apartments and town houses, 24 assisted living units and skilled nursing services -- have some residents worried that the project will shatter the tranquillity they treasure.

The proposal is so different from traditional senior housing that it requires a change to the town zoning code, adding a new category: continuing care retirement community. The town board plans to hold a public hearing on the proposal Thursday at 7 p.m. at the town senior center, 420 Middle Country Rd.

St. Johnland chief executive Mary Jean Weber said the Uplands would allow seniors to stay near family and friends while living in a building staffed by medical professionals. The plans were designed by Dallas-based Greenbrier Development, and the facility would be run by St. Johnland.

"It will be a very attractive site," she said. "It is a service that is really needed in our community."

Units would sell for $395,000 to $825,000, according to plans filed with the town.

In ads published in local newspapers, St. Johnland officials said the complex would generate $1.29 million in annual tax revenue, create 500 construction jobs and employ 100 permanent full-time and part-time workers.

But civic activists are wary of the project's size -- and a related proposal to build an effluent field on nearby Meadow Road. They say the facility, part of an upgrade of Suffolk County's Kings Park sewage treatment plant, would create sickening odors.

Town and county officials argue the effluent field is needed because of the sewage plant's low capacity.

But town planning director Frank DeRubeis questioned the field's proposed location on a wooded, 5-acre parcel. "We are kind of concerned about that," he said.

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