Assisted living complex plans kept on hold for zoning issues

Concordia Senior Communities of Melville has been planning for several years to build a complex of approximately 180 units of assisted living housing on 25 acres north of Home Depot on Mill Road. It’s just been waiting for Riverhead Town to create zoning that would allow the project, since current zoning regulations prohibit assisted living facilities anywhere in town.

But they’ll have to wait a little longer, since a proposal to create such a zone is going back for revisions following comments at a public hearing Tuesday.

“This isn’t going to get adopted,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said after the hearing. “This needs to be tweaked and massaged based on what we heard at this public hearing. We want this to work.”

The supervisor wants to put together “a small working group” to hammer out a better proposal, and he wants the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps represented in that group, because he’s concerned that an assisted living facility could place a burden on ambulance services.

Concordia president Ronald DeVito said his organization wants to build about 100 independent living homes for active seniors, about 50 to 60 “enriched housing” apartment units for residents who need a moderate amount of assistance and 24 to 30 units of assisted living housing for residents who need higher levels of assistance.

“This is a combination that allows for aging in place,” Mr. DeVito said.

Concordia is under contract to buy the 25 acres pending approval of the project, he said.

Most people who spoke at the hearing supported the concept of assisted living, although several said changes were needed to the proposal the town is considering.

Jay Zuckerman, vice president for corporate affairs at Peconic Bay Medical Center, which also has considered building an assisted care facility, said the proposed ordinance should require each home to have a kitchen because it’s important to encourage seniors to be active.

Realtor Larry Oxman said assisted living facilities are is needed in Riverhead, but should be zoned the way hotels are, based on the floor area ratio rather than the number of units per acre.

Bob Zappulla of Riverhead complained that his family had to go to Holtsville to find an assisted living facility for his mother-in-law because there is no such facility in Riverhead.

Keith Archer, an attorney for Concordia, suggested that the zoning allow more flexibility and smaller unit sizes.

Councilman John Dunleavy, who has been pushing for the zone change, said of the proposal, “This will permit our seniors to continue to live in the community that they have enjoyed for all or most of their lives.”

No one spoke on the issue of ambulance services.

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