The South Saxon community came out to Thursday night’s Islip Planning Board meeting in opposition to a zone change in order to construct an assisted living facility of 180 total units where the Montfort seminary stands. The board ultimately reserved the ruling on the application and has left public comment on the matter open until just after Christmas.
“I don’t know if the project is appropriate for the area,” board chairman Ed Friedland said just after Sunrise Development Inc. concluded their presentation at Islip Town Hall West.
The application features 90 assisted living units as well as 90 independent living units, a construction that calls for demolition of the existing structure. The developer has requested a change of zone from Residential AAA to General Service C though claims that an assisted living facility is designated as residential use, as opposed to commercial.
Residents argued, however, that the anticipated influx of traffic is comparable to a commercial use.
Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi, a member of the South Saxon community, spoke first among the community.
“There is an overwhelming amount of opposition on this change of zone from homeowners within the South Saxon community,” he said, continuing on to say that the board will receive a petition of over 270 signatures of residents on the peninsula against the proposal. “That should give you some indication of the level of opposition. The people who live on this peninsula should matter to this board, and I would submit those opinions should matter above all else.”
Regarding the usage conversation, Cilmi emphasized that characteristics of the situation point toward commercial use.
“You have a corporate conglomerate which hires people and employs people, all of whom will be coming and going all hours of the day and night, which contracts with other businesses to provide services—food, laundry, cleaning, maintenance and so on,” Cilmi said. “Those who live there are not homeowners. They are clients. And I empathize with them. But this is a business. This is commerce, and this is what the planning department recognizes as a commercial operation which requires commercial zoning.”
Several residents made note of the traffic concern coupled with the particular geography of the area.
“Our small, quiet, beautiful South Saxon peninsula already has issues with regard to parking and traffic,” said Deborah Antoniadis, a nearby resident. “The area only has two methods of egress—two roads that allow our residents to access Montauk Highway.”
Among other concerns for motorists, another resident pointed out the consistent parallel parking on South Saxon Avenue approaching Montauk Highway. Residents say the parked vehicles are present all the way up to the CVS entrance/exit on South Saxon Avenue, consistently. Because the parked cars approach to that intersection so closely, residents say it has become dangerous to take a left-hand turn out of the CVS parking lot toward the Montfort property and their homes.
The South Saxon Avenue/Montauk Highway intersection is one of the two options on or off the peninsula. Primarily, residents argued that that the volume of parked vehicles on South Saxon Avenue is already a traffic hazard in the area and that the traffic produced from an assisted living facility will exacerbate that concern, especially considering emergency and delivery vehicles coming to and fro.
Residents continued testimony in regard to traffic, but digressed toward topics such as late-night fast-food traffic on Montauk Highway. Additionally, residents expressed frustration for how long it typically takes to reach Sunrise Highway on the direct route from Saxon Avenue, citing 10-minute trips to travel the less than two miles.
One resident who lives in the Windcrest 55-and-over community, just off South Saxon Avenue, said an overwhelming majority of the Windcrest residents expressed opposition to the application, as a survey was conducted.
Another resident suggested that a full environmental impact statement should be conducted considering water table issues in the area. Additionally, quality-of-life concerns and the disruption of historic grounds were both mentioned.
Multiple individuals spoke in favor of the application as well, including Paul O’Rourke, executive vice president of EW Howell, a construction company that has a considerable presence on Long Island. He mentioned two other Sunrise structures being built at the moment and another that has been recently completed. He added that several of those buildings have been erected in residential areas.
“These buildings are beautiful. They are proportionally situated. It has created construction jobs, permanent jobs, tax benefits to all the towns, provided housing for seniors so that they can stay in their communities,” he said.
O’Rourke said that buildings of this kind do not create too much traffic or congestion.
“A lot of these negatives that have been brought up: we’ve been down this [road] before in your town, and these are just false. And you really need to kind of get out there and go visit some of these [other Sunrise] facilities.”
The board will be assessing the testimony heard on Thursday as well as the additional commentary provided before that period ends. n