Smithtown Town Board members Tuesday approved the environmental review of the St. Johnland Development Group LLC's proposed assisted-living facility -- finding no significant environmental threats.
The board also conditionally granted a special exception, allowing the project to move forward. Should the town's zoning board of appeals grant variances in January, the special exception will be approved and developers can move to the site plan process, necessary before building begins.
Town board members voted 4-0, with Supervisor Patrick Vecchio absent, to approve both resolutions for Whisper Landing Assisted Living -- a 136-bed facility that Smithtown-based St. Johnland wants to build at Route 25A and River Heights Drive in Smithtown hamlet -- and a sewage treatment system.
"I've been for it from the very beginning, and I'm very pleased that . . . there were no environmental matters," Councilman Robert Creighton said.
"To me, it was. . . a good project that is needed in the town. It's in a perfect location."A Dec. 11 memo from the town's assistant environmental protection director Howard Barton III advised the board to issue a negative declaration for the project on a 12.39-acre site, meaning no environmental impact statement was required.
The memo cited various reasons, finding St. Johnland's proposal "does not appear to significantly threaten any unique or highly valuable environmental or cultural resources."
The report also showed that the proposal "appears to be compatible with neighboring land uses through the retention of adequate vegetated buffers, additional plantings . . ." and "a significant adverse impact upon traffic circulation and safety is not anticipated as the proposed access drive is designed to align with an existing signalized intersection."
But Valerie Manzo, an attorney representing Bill Kearney, 58, who lives next door to the site, said her client "feels very strongly that there's been a rush to vote" that did not let neighbors speak about the environmental findings. Manzo said a new public hearing should have been held because the proposal "has been so extraordinarily altered."
Glenn Gruder, 53, a zoning attorney who lives near the site, said he plans to sue because the town board did not follow special permit code. "I think what they've done today is a disgrace to the neighbors," he said after the vote. "They blatantly disregarded their own procedures today."
But town attorney John Zollo said the town board "approved the special exception permit conditionally -- it's conditioned upon the grant of the variances. The actions that the town board took are consistent with the town code provisions. This is just . . . an attempt, I think, to try to delay or derail the application."
Richard I. Scheyer, attornery for St. Johnland, said "I believe that the town ultimately did what their own laws required them to do here. We met all the conditions...and even though there are some neighbors who are not happy, that's always the case in any major construction project where residential property borders commercial property."