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Smithtown board to meet Thursday on senior housing plan

The Smithtown Town Board is to receive a

The Smithtown Town Board is to receive a report outlining the potential environmental impacts of the proposed 199-unit Uplands senior housing development in Kings Park. Photo Credit: stjohnland.org

The Smithtown Town Board Thursday night extended a years-long official review of a proposed Kings Park senior housing development by at least several more weeks, delaying acceptance of a report required by state law outlining its potential environmental impacts.

The report, known as a final environmental impact statement, could pave the way for precedent-setting changes to town land use laws for some retirement communities.

“The town board needs further clarification from the environmental department on the acceptance of the impact statement,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said of the delay.

The original 2007 proposal from the Society of St. Johnland, which runs the St. Johnland Nursing Center, was to rezone 50 wooded acres zoned for residential use near Sunken Meadow and Old Dock roads to permit a $104 million, 199-unit facility.

Town officials later proposed changes to Town Code to create zoning for continuing care retirement communities like it.

They ordered a full review in 2008 after determining more information was needed about the town-wide impact of such facilities and the local impact the facility, to be called the Uplands, could have on freshwater wetlands near the Nissequogue River.

The final report will weigh both proposals, providing the public with some of the first new information on the project since the release of a 2012 draft. It will include comments from town environmental experts and responses from the prospective developer.

Officials will post the report on the town website after the Board formally accepts it and open a month-long public comment period.

St. Johnland officials have said the project would generate $1.3 million in tax revenue annually, create hundreds of jobs and allow area seniors to live near their families by providing affordable retirement housing.

But some neighbors, civic groups and elected officials in the town opposed its scale and location.

St. Johnland chief executive Mary Jean Weber earlier this week declined to comment, saying she had not yet seen the final environmental report.

Vecchio said earlier in the week that he was open to similar facilities elsewhere in the town, but not on what he called “50 acres of pristine land.” He added: “There are other places where they could put those buildings.”

Deputy Supervisor Tom McCarthy said Wednesday that most Town Board members opposed the project.

“It’s just too intense for where they want to put it,” he said. “For an environmentally sensitive area, it’s too intense.”

Kings Park Civic Association vice president Linda Henninger said Wednesday that her group remained opposed to a zoning change for the original proposed site. The group supports a swap that would turn the site into state parkland and let St. Johnland build on the footprint of former Kings Park Psychiatric Center buildings in Nissequogue River State Park. Vecchio supports such a deal, which would likely have to include demolition of the buildings.

Officials of the nursing home and the state parks office have said talks were unsuccessful. Parks Regional Director Wayne Horsley said Wednesday he had no new information on a possible deal.

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