United Way of Long Island will abandon a proposal for a group home for veterans in Village of the Branch after officials said it would not be allowed under village code that permits only single-family dwellings.
Theresa Regnante, president of United Way of Long Island, said last week that her organization would withdraw its application but that the 301 E. Main St. property would still become a home for a person or a family. "It will be a positive," she said. "We'll make sure that we follow the village's timeline."
Village officials at a June 11 village board meeting said that the law gave them little leeway. “I’m a veteran and I support veterans’ organizations,” trustee John Carro said. But “the village has a code that does not allow multifamily dwellings.” Officials also said that the East Main Street property is in the village's historic district, where zoning regulations could complicate renovations.
Village code defines a family as individuals “related by blood, marriage or legal adoption… living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit." The nonprofit had envisioned temporary housing for four to five veterans who would cycle through on their way to permanent housing elsewhere.
Village officials had warned the application would have required code changes. “I’m not going to lie,” Mayor Mark Delaney said. “It’s not a fun process. It takes a long time. It requires a commitment in terms of resources” including, at a minimum, commissioning a professional traffic study.
The proposal outlined by an architect for United Way of Long Island at the village board meeting would have added a 900-square-foot kitchen and a ramp for handicapped access to the East Main St. building. United Way bought the three-acre property last year for $857,500, according to property records. Another nonprofit, United Veterans Beacon House, would have operated the home, with a house manager on site.
Beacon House vice president Jackie DeLeonardis said residents would leave most days for work, trade school or medical care at the Northport VA, living at the house for up to six months. Some veterans, “when they come back, have a hard time transitioning,” said the architect, Jean-Pierre Lardoux, principal architect at Plainview-based Fusion Architecture, in an interview. “Is it needed? Yes.”
Village officials recognized possible code problems with the United Way proposal earlier this year. “They insist it is a single-family residence” despite plans for three stoves, three refrigerators, three pantries and six closets, the village clerk wrote in minutes for a March Village Board meeting.
Several group homes already operate in or near the village under New York's Padavan Law, which allows group homes to bypass local zoning in some instances, but village attorney Christopher Ring said in an interview that the proposed home would not have qualified. Qualifying homes are licensed by the state's Office of Mental Health or Office for People With Developmental Disabilities to serve people with mental disabilities. The proposed home's residents would not "fall under the definition of a protected class," Ring said. "No one at the presentation said that these people possess a statutorily defined disability."