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$45 million assisted-living project in line for tax breaks

This rending shows the proposed Whisper Landing in

This rending shows the proposed Whisper Landing in Smithtown. Board members voted unanimously, 5-0, to settle zoning conditions with Smithtown-based St. Johnland Development Corp. to allow the assisted living complex at Route 25A and River Heights Drive.

A $45 million assisted-living facility proposed for Smithtown is in line for tax breaks from Suffolk County.

The development, called Whisper Landing, received preliminary approval for a sales-tax exemption, valued at up to $2.5 million, and $330,750 off the mortgage recording tax from the county's industrial development agency.

The project also will likely receive a break on property taxes, though negotiations between the developer, Benchmark Senior Living, and the IDA are continuing.

The IDA's board of directors is expected to consider the complete package of tax incentives this month.

Whisper Landing would consist of 103 units in a three-story complex of about 90,000 square feet. Its proposed site is 12 acres along Route 25A across from St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center.

Whisper Landing would be Benchmark's first operation in New York State. The Wellesley, Massachusetts-based company cares for more than 4,000 elderly at 50 assisted- living communities in six New England states. The average age of residents is 87.

"We decided to make [Smithtown] our beachhead on Long Island," said Ken Littlefield, the company's development director. It also has proposed a facility in Huntington, but after facing community opposition it was forced to downsize the project from 87 units to 67 in hopes of winning approval.

Littlefield said last week the Smithtown property now has three single-family homes that will be torn down to make way for Whisper Landing.

He also said he hopes the facility will be able to hook into the sewer system used by the hospital instead of constructing a separate sewage treatment plant. The latter plan has sparked complaints from nearby homeowners about feared odors.

Whisper Landing is expected to open in early 2017. It will employ 64 workers initially. Records show they will earn, on average, $41,516 per year -- substantially more than the average of $27,518 paid to the company's 3,155 employees in New England.

At last week's IDA board meeting vice chairman Grant Hendricks said, "It will fill up very quickly."

Board member Sondra Cochran agreed, saying, "There is definitely a need out there."

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