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Woodbury assisted living center proposal concerns neighbors

A rendering shows the proposed Benchmark Senior Living

A rendering shows the proposed Benchmark Senior Living at Woodbury project. The facility is opposed by many neighbors who worry it will bring in extra traffic and change the character of the neighborhood. Photo Credit: Handout

A residential pocket in Woodbury nestled between some of Long Island’s busiest roadways has become the latest battleground between single-family homeowners and a multiunit housing developer.

Massachusetts-based Benchmark Senior Living sees a 3.76-acre property on Woodbury Road as the perfect spot for a 95-unit, two-story assisted living facility. But for many of the homeowners in the more than 80 houses inside a triangle where the Long Island Expressway, the Northern State Parkway and the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway crisscross, the building would be out of place and impact their quality of life.

The applicant, BSL NY Development LLC, is seeking a special-use permit and site plan approval for property that is zoned for neighborhood business. More than half the property would be landscaped, the site plan shows, while the building would take up 24 percent.

At a hearing last month, the developer’s attorney, Judy Simoncic, partner at Uniondale-based Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrana LLP, said the proposed two-story, 73,950-square-foot facility was the use that “fits best with this neighborhood.”

But many residents disagreed, voicing concerns about traffic, noise, light pollution and buffers between their homes and the proposed building. The developer’s attempts to assuage such concerns at the hearing were met with skepticism.

Hank Garber, 64, a management consultant who has lived around the corner from the site for 31 years, said residents preferred either houses or small neighborhood shops.

“It’s not something we welcome because we don’t feel it is really in character,” Garber said in an interview. Traffic is already a concern as drivers cut through the neighborhood, he said, “and we only see it getting worse.”

The company has faced opposition in other Long Island communities. In Smithtown, the company received conditional approval in December to build a 130-bed assisted living facility, after a lawsuit over the town’s conditions to approve a permit was settled. In Huntington it downsized a proposal to build an 87-unit facility to 67 units in the face of resident opposition.

The company’s attempts to develop in Woodbury come as Oyster Bay’s population is aging. In 2005, 15.4 percent of town residents — more than 43,000 — were 65 or older, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. Census estimates for 2014 show population growth, as well as a growing percentage of seniors. In a 10-year span, the over-65 population grew by almost 9,000 to nearly 52,000, making up 17.4 percent of town residents, census estimates show.

Even so, the company might face an uphill battle to convince residents that this facility should go in their neighborhood. In Woodbury, residents complained about lack of proper notice from the developer. Simoncic said the applicant had gone above and beyond what was required, but many residents said those efforts hadn’t been sufficient.

“You might want to consider reaching out and talking to some of the residents who are here tonight,” Supervisor John Venditto said at the hearing.

Ken Littlefield, Benchmark’s director of development, said he was willing to talk to residents.

“We are more than willing to talk to the community to build a beautiful building to fit in with the community,” Littlefield said at the hearing.

A meeting between the residents and the developer has been scheduled for Monday, April 25, according to the developer’s lawyer.

The town board reserved a decision for a later date.

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