Zoning would allow for assisted living

In December, a 220,000-square-foot assisted living facility was proposed for 22 acres just north of Home Depot on Mill Road.

But town officials say that under current zoning, there is nowhere in town where such a facility would be permitted.

That may change soon.

The Riverhead Town Board is considering a proposal to create a special floating zone to allow assisted living projects in the town.

Such facilities would allow seniors to simply move up to a different level of care, rather than move out of the community, according to Councilman John Dunleavy, who proposed the new zone.

In addition to the Mill Road plan, Peconic Bay Medical Center may also propose an assisted living facility on land it currently uses for parking on the west side of Roanoke Avenue, across from the hospital.

“We’re considering between 100 and 150 units of either senior affordable housing or assisted living units,” said hospital president Andrew Mitchell. The hospital would also seek to build a two- to three-story parking garage next to the new housing, he added.

“We’re finding that the people living in all of the senior housing built in Riverhead over the years are now getting older and needing additional services,” Mr. Mitchell said.

The proposal is just in the concept stage right now. Town officials were hoping to interest the hospital in building something downtown, but Mr. Mitchell said it’s easier for PBMC to build on land it already owns.

Currently, however, zoning doesn’t allow assisted living projects anywhere in town, officials said.

The town already has heard from at least two applicants who are looking to build assisted living facilities, but need the town to change the zoning to allow it.

Mill Road project presented to the town’s Industrial Development Agency during the winter has not yet been formally proposed because of the zoning issue.

Attorney Ronald DeVito told the IDA his plan would call for 105 homes, ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet, for active or “independent living” seniors, along with a two-story, 50-apartment enriched housing program, 12 assisted living units in a one-story building and a two-story clubhouse for dining and activities.

The Town Board is considering scheduling a public hearing on a proposal to create a “senior living and continuum of care retirement community zoning use district.”

It would be a “floating zone,” which means that it could be located anywhere as long as specific requirements set out in the code are met. Town planning director Rick Hanley said he believes very few sites in town will meet those guidelines.

In order to qualify for the new designation, a property would need to be at least 25 acres with at least 1,500 feet of continuous frontage on a public highway, or 750 feet on a combination of two public highways. Properties also would need to be served by the Riverhead Sewer District and be located within 1,500 feet of a designated hamlet area.

Neither the Mill Road nor the hospital location meets the acreage requirement, although Mr. Mitchell said that many of the services offered in traditional assisted living facilities wouldn’t be needed in the PBMC proposal because those services are available across the street at the hospital and in its skilled nursing facility.

The hospital had planned to be part of an assisted living project on Manor Road in Calverton a few years ago. That proposal, which also for retail space and a YMCA, has been tied up in litigation with the town.

Town officials said they feel the town needs assisted living facilities, but they want to be careful where they allow them to be built.

“We need them in town and we don’t want to make this too restrictive,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio.

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