The head of a Westhampton Beach drug treatment center says he’ll put a 100-bed sober home at a Blue Point convent if Brookhaven Town officials reject a rehabilitation facility there.
Seafield Center chief operating officer John Haley said in an interview the sober home — a temporary residence for people struggling with alcoholism — could open as soon as the company completes its $5.3 million purchase of the St. Ursula Center on Middle Road. He said he hopes to do so early next year.
Haley said the sober home would upend Brookhaven officials’ plan to use town zoning laws to block Seafield from opening a drug rehab center. Rehab centers are not allowed under the site’s residential zoning, but sober homes are, he said.
“I don’t have to change the zoning,” Haley said. “It’s the only other option. These people need help. It’s people who are in need of assistance.”
Many Blue Point residents oppose Seafield’s plan to buy the convent and turn it into a 76-bed rehab center. Opponents have said that would disrupt the quiet residential neighborhood.
One opponent, town Councilman Neil Foley, conceded Haley’s point that zoning laws would not block a sober home, but added, “To me that would be a very expensive sober home.”
Foley, a Republican and Blue Point resident, said: “The ball is in their court. They know where the town stands. They know where I stand.”
Seafield agreed in November to buy the site from the Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, whose aging membership would move to nursing facilities when the convent is sold.
Jason Borowski, a leader of the Blue Point Civic Coalition, formed to oppose the Seafield plan, said he thinks the sober home proposal is “a little bit of a bluff.” He said town rental laws would limit a sober home to 16 residents.
Haley said those town laws would not apply to a sober home, adding Seafield could house up to 100 people there. He said unlike drug rehab centers, which are heavily regulated and require regular inspections, sober homes are largely unregulated.
Seafield operates 16 sober houses with a total of 225 beds, 175 of which currently are occupied.The homes offer a temporary place to stay, but have little, if any, medical or therapeutic services.
Foley said he prefers to move the Bayport-Blue Point Public Library to the convent site from its location on Blue Point Avenue in Blue Point.
Timothy Hearney, superintendent of the Bayport-Blue Point School District, which has jurisdiction over the library, said in a statement a feasibility study on moving to the convent had been commissioned before Seafield officials announced plans to purchase the site. “The findings from that study have not yet been finalized,” he added.
Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the number of sober homes operated by Seafield.