Smithtown residents fight assisted living

Smithtown residents, fearing a traffic influx and the loss of rural scenery along state Route 25A, are imploring the town board to reject a planned 136-bed assisted-living residence.

But town officials say under the municipality's zoning laws, they might have little choice but to approve the three-story, 110-unit facility, which would include a sewage-treatment system on the site. Still, town board members have said they will not take a position on Whisper Landing Assisted Living until they have more information, including the results of an environmental assessment.

A Smithtown company, St. Johnland Development Group Llc, wants to build Whisper Landing on a 12.39-acre parcel near River Heights Drive. The project requires a special exception permit from the town board and a height variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals; the 49-foot-high building would exceed the height limit by 14 feet.

At a packed public hearing last week before the town board, neighbors of the project said it would bring too much traffic to the area and ruin their views of the mostly wooded parcel, which is occupied by two private homes.

"We don't want our neighborhood to look like the New York City skyline," said Bill Kearney, who lives on Route 25A. "Use every power you have to stop this," he told the board on Thursday. "This special exception -- I take exception to it."

Aside from the developers, no one at the meeting spoke in favor of the project. Residents also expressed concern about the sewage system.

But board members have said they may have no legal grounds to reject the project because it meets the town's minimum criteria, such as lot size, for assisted-living facilities on residential properties.

St. Johnland Development representatives at the meeting said Whisper Landing would help fill a need for assisted-living homes in Smithtown. They said all traffic linked to the facility would use a single entrance on Route 25A and not affect neighboring homes.

"The people who are worried about traffic -- there won't be any," said attorney Richard Scheyer, as opponents shouted skeptical replies. "There should be no impact on any street, other than 25A."

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