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Walter: Assisted living project should be built in Riverside

12/16/2015 3:00 PM |

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A large assisted living project planned for 25 acres on Mill Road, behind Home Depot, has reduced the number of units proposed, but Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter thinks it would be better to build it outside the town entirely — in nearby Riverside. 

The supervisor thinks the facility could kick-start Southampton Town’s proposed Riverside revitalizaton project, which has among its stated goals attracting an assisted living facility to the area.

“This is sorely needed and somewhere it has to happen,” Mr. Walter told Concordia CEO Ronald DeVito at last Thursday’s Town Board work session.

At the Town Board’s request, Concordia Senior Communities redesigned its original 2010 plan to reduce the number of units from 189 to 162. And although the town created a new zone that the project would fit in, the property for which Concordia is proposed remains in the Agricultural Protection Zone.

“It’s an incremental approach to taking farmland with prime soils out of production,” said Mr. Walter.

Councilman John Dunleavy, who has long supported the project, opposes sending it to Riverside.

“I wouldn’t want to give Southampton the tax dollars when we need it here,” he said.

Mr. DeVito said Riverhead is considered a “targeted employment area” by the state’s Empire Development Corporation.

“So is Riverside,” Mr. Walter said.

“I don’t care about Riverside,” a frustrated Mr. DeVito said.

Councilman Jim Wooten pointed out that Riverside’s redevelopment plans hinge on creating adequate sewage treatment systems in that area, which could take many years.

Concordia is viewed as an “aging in place” facility, where residents can move into units that provide greater medical assistance as they age.

In response to criticisms from town officials three years ago, Concordia has adjusted its proposal to reduce the number of independent living units from 100 to 48 and increased the number of assisted living units from 89 to 114.

Much of the local farming community wasn’t happy with the proposal either, arguing that allowing development on the parcel — on the east side of Mill Road, south of Middle Road — sets a bad precedent.

Dave McLaren, chairman of the town’s agricultural advisory committee, said Tuesday that the committee discussed the Concordia proposal Monday night and is still opposed.

“You start chipping away at the APZ,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

The committee had objected to the fact that the project didn’t use transfer of development rights program in 2013. That program allows farmers to sell the development rights of farms the town wants preserve. Developers can purchase those development rights in exchange for permission build beyond what zoning allows in areas where the town feels more development is appropriate.

Concordia’s revised proposal does use TDR, however, Mr. DeVito said.

Concordia’s facility would be available to people who make less than 110 percent of the median income in Riverhead Town, which is about $69,000, Mr. DeVito said.

The monthly rent would be about $4,000 a month for most of the project and about $5,800 for the units where residents require more extensive care. The project would generate 113 full-time equivalent jobs, according to Concordia.

The Town Board plans to hold a hearing related to the proposal some time in January. The hearing would address changing the zoning of the property for which the project is currently planned.

Photo Caption: From left, architect Phil Monastero, John Gursky of Cameron Engineering, and Concordia CEO Ron DeVito discuss Concordia’s proposed assisted living project at last week’s Riverhead Town Board work session. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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