The Brookhaven Town Board has approved zoning code changes intended to promote construction of housing for senior citizens.

Supporters said the code amendments, which were approved 6-1 at a May 22 town board meeting, were designed to address a growing need for senior housing. Councilwoman Connie Kepert cast the dissenting vote.

The zoning changes affect countless parcels and could vastly expand the number of senior housing units in Brookhaven. The decision follows recent action by Huntington, Babylon and Hempstead officials, who have approved or are considering applications to rezone properties for proposed senior housing in those towns.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Brookhaven must accommodate more senior housing because population trends indicate a surge in the number of retirees living on Long Island.

"Take a look at the demographics," he said during a public hearing that preceded the vote. "Brookhaven is aging out."

The zoning amendments would allow more multiunit senior housing developments -- or Planned Retirement Communities -- by expanding the definitions of primary and secondary zones, where town officials prefer to locate such developments because they are near major roads and business districts.

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The code amendments also increase the permitted density for senior housing: from six units per acre to eight in primary zones; from four units per acre to six in secondary zones, and from two units per acre to four in so-called tertiary zones, which are located farther away from highways and commercial centers.

Opponents of the code changes said they could cause overdevelopment. Kepert said the changes would be "sprawl-inducing," adding that senior communities should not be allowed in tertiary zones.

Community activist MaryAnn Johnston said she worried about increased "nitrogen loads" from sewage that could pollute groundwater. Romaine said the county Department of Health Services would require senior communities to install septic systems.

Johnston said she was not convinced. "My faith in the county health department is somewhat more limited than yours," she said.

Town planning commissioner Tullio Bertoli defended the changes, saying previous zoning codes were too restrictive.

"We want to be flexible," Bertoli said.