Smithtown debates need for assisted living centers

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A proposed 136-bed assisted-living facility could help fill a growing need in Smithtown, supporters say. But town officials said some neighbors oppose such residences.

A Smithtown company, St. Johnland Development Group Llc, wants to build Whisper Landing Assisted Living on a 12.39-acre site at State Route 25A and River Heights Drive. The proposal is scheduled to be the subject of a public hearing at 7 tonight before the town board at the Smithtown Senior Center, 420 Middle Country Rd.

The proposed three-story, 110-unit facility, which would be across the street from St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, would "complement" the hospital, a hospital official said.

"We look forward to partnering with them to better serve the acute care needs of their future residents," St. Catherine of Siena executive vice president Dennis Verzi said in a statement emailed to Newsday.

Town officials said they have not taken a position on the proposal, but said some residents have expressed concern over the potential effect on traffic, noise and property values.

However, Councilman Edward Wehrheim said assisted-living facilities "are absolutely needed," adding constituents often seek his help to find homes for family members. Councilman Kevin Malloy said some residents favor the project "because it would be a place for their parents, instead of moving out of town."

The proposed Whisper Landing site is occupied by two private homes. The owner of one home, Lillian Bowman, said she planned to sell her house to St. Johnland, but declined to comment further. A voice-mail message at the home of the other property owner referred questions to St. Johnland. Phone calls and emails to St. Johnland officials were not returned.

Documents filed with the town Planning Department say the 99,980-square-foot building would have 136 parking spaces.

Town officials said it is unclear who would run Whisper Landing, if it is approved. "I'm sure that will come up at the public hearing," Wehrheim said.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said the project would require an environmental review before the town board could vote on it. St. Johnland also must seek a height variance from the town Board of Zoning Appeals because Whisper Landing would be 49 feet high, 14 feet higher than what is normally allowed. St. Johnland has not filed a variance application, town planning officials said.

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