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Brookhaven says Suffolk must rezone former nursing home site

The John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Center is

The John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Center is in Yaphank. Credit: News 12

Brookhaven Town has told Suffolk County officials that they must rezone the former John J. Foley nursing home in Yaphank and pay fees totaling about $580,000 if they want to complete a $15 million sale to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.

The county was exempt from local zoning when it built the former 246-bed nursing home on county property. But the property, now zoned for single-family homes on 1-acre lots, must be rezoned to legally permit a more intense commercial health-related use, town officials said.

The rezoning also would subject the property to a town intensification fee that would be earmarked for open space preservation in areas of the town such as the Carmans River watershed.

What makes the situation unusual is that the Foley building, opened in 1995, was in operation as an active nursing home until 2013 when the administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone closed it as too costly.

Town officials first alerted the county to the need for rezoning and the fee in a meeting with county and hospital officials about three weeks ago.

“The county didn’t seem to have a problem because it is part of the zoning requirements,” said Supervisor Edward Romaine, an avid backer of the sale to the hospital.

But he said there is no provision in the code to waive the fee for a nonprofit institution and no one has made such a request. “When they waive their fees, we’ll waive ours,” Romaine said.

Romaine said the hospital should make any sale contingent on the county obtaining rezoning approval and payment of the fee.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider was noncommittal.

“The Town of Brookhaven has been nothing but helpful in this process,“ said Schneider, adding that the fee “is an issue for contract negotiations” with the hospital.

Schneider said contract talks have yet to begin. “We’re eager to get started, but I don’t have a timeline,” he said.

Cynthia Ruf, a vice president at Brookhaven Memorial, said the hospital’s “position as a potential purchaser is that zoning fees should be worked out between the county and the town.”

The county reached the tentative $15 million agreement with the hospital in late December after the failure of a succession of earlier deals dating back to the administration of former County Executive Steve Levy.

The nonprofit Brookhaven Memorial has said it would provide an array of “vitally needed outpatient services” at the former Foley site, including dialysis, pediatric services, adult day care, Medicaid assisted living and drug rehabilitation.

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