Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fast Tracking Senior Living Facilities, the Latest Green-Light Buzzword

As a developer, if you want to build in Greenburgh, what could be better than to have unfettered access to parcels of land that are otherwise inappropriate for certain zoned usage? Several years ago the active buzzwords needed for approval morphed from homeless shelters to workforce housing and now to assisted living. This new solution is simply to propose an Assisted Living facility and offer all kinds of tax revenue that Mr Feiner will be able to trumpet on the developer’s behalf. The first meeting will be behind closed doors in the corner office. The next step will be an informal proposal at a Town Board Work Session, followed up with a proposal at a regular Town Board meeting. By then, all of the various departments will have gotten in line and the “sails” will have been raised by Mr Feiner enough for the deal to be ready for Town Board consummation. Such emerges the case with the Shelbourne Formation, Inc., also know as Shelbourne Assisted Living Facility.

Is justification really necessary for the consummation of this project or will a preemptive act with the Town Board’s heavy handed stamp-of-approval suffice?  As this is one of Mr Feiner’s pet projects, approval is not really necessary – it has been mandated and will go through with minimal resistance. We’ve seen when he wants a project to happen, it’ll be the proverbial “done deal”. He will send an email blast from his much-coveted GBList, professing the advantages of approving this project, regardless of the merits or accuracy of the conjectured information. A court has ordered him to share the list with a local civic association but he has still refused to surrender it! Why is this important? Because as he spreads misinformation to residents, the civic association is seeking to inform its members of the rest of the story – something that hasn’t happened in years.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, May 11, 2016. It is regarding the environmental review process (SEQRA) associated with special permit applications submitted by Shelbourne Senior Living. ABG believes this to be a phony justification hearing strictly for the purposes of slanting the application forward on Shelbourne’s behalf. The assisted living facility is proposed to be built at 448 Underhill Road, the current home of the Sprainbrook Nursery. The Sprainbrook Nursery, which was opened on Underhill Avenue in Edgemont by Al Krautter's parents in 1944, has been struggling for the past few years, reducing its staff from about two dozen employees to just Krautter, his wife Heidi, and a handful of others.

The Shelbourne Senior facility is proposed as a four story, 80-unit, 70,000 sq.-ft. assisted living facility building, with off-street parking, landscaping and related amenities. Numerous approvals are required for this project to move forward. Special permits are needed from the Town Board, which will encounter little, if any resistance and be granted post haste. Area variances from the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals seem to be in flux now that the Zoning Board of Appeals ruled against the former Town Building Inspector John Locido, who retired last month, overturning his determination that no variances were required to construct the 80-bed facility. New Town code, written and submitted by the Brightview Assisted Living Facility’s attorneys, created a customized path to allow assisted living facilities in residential neighborhoods only if they are within 200 feet of a state or county right-of-way, excluding parkways and interstates. The nearest state or county right of way is nearly a mile away. The code also requires the property to be 4-acres, which this is not. And, while the Planning Board must also approve the site plan and steep slope and watercourse permits, we see little, if any, resistance there. Interestingly, when a homeowner seeks to make small additions to their homes, a years worth of permits and approval processes along with other hurdles often make moving a more viable alternative to remodeling.

Some like assisted living facilities because it offers the chance to encourage elderly family members an option to remain local while seeking to remain independent. Some see that as a win for the school districts as it promises revenue without the school district having to invest in more children. Discussing the tax revenue for the Town and various agencies involved with the operation of the facility within its neighborhood offers conflicting thoughts.
In fact we’ve been promised over a 10 year period that the Shelbourne facility will generate approximately $5 million in total property taxes – which would include $3 million to the Edgemont School District, $500,000 to the Greenville Fire District and $900,000 to the town. Of course, let’s not forget that Mr Feiner promised the Town $5million if we approved the GameOn 365 sports bubble arena in a residential neighborhood – which was proven a figment of his imagination. 

While $3million would be a windfall for the school district, the $500,000 to the Greenville Fire District may turn out to be an inadequate amount of money for the amount of alarms generated by the facility. How so? There will certainly be fire alarms from that location. But there will also be ambulance calls, known as aided cases for that location. Greenburgh Police will provide the bulk of the medical services per se, but the fire department will also respond and assist, as will volunteer ambulance corps (who will receive no money). As seen with the Hebrew Home and the Fairview FD, their responses are almost daily and in fact sometimes more. As with all fire departments, volunteer and career, if there is an alarm, they will respond, regardless of the money generated through taxes.

Other impacts related beyond the projected requests for emergency services, is the location and delivery times coupled with traffic issues during their normal course of a business day. Subsequently, the impacts of the proposal to surrounding properties should be a significant concern.

While the desire to build assisted living facilities appears noble at first blush, the apparent tact here for the developers is nothing more than finding a legal way to construct four-story apartment buildings in inappropriate locations throughout the Town. Additionally, numerous assisted living facilities throughout the state are running into financial difficulties. Sadly, most of the seniors who have moved into them have signed over their estates to do so, leaving them with little or nothing to fall back on should the facility fail. One such facility is operated by the Hebrew Home on Grasslands Road next to the Westchester Community College campus. They, and now their residents, are in financial distress as they are experiencing significant difficulties with their model. Likewise, The Esplanade in White Plains which has failed as an assisted living facility is being converted into a multi-family housing unit. Was that the plan all along?
There is a public hearing this Wednesday on May 11th at Town Hall to discuss whether or not to move forward with the Shelbourne Assisted Living Facility. There are too many issues, questions and problems with this proposal for it to move forward. We hope many residents will recognize this and come out to tell the Town what they think about this. Only then will we get A Better Greenburgh.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately, I expect we will hear many a praise for assisted living facilities in general and why this is such a good project for the town to undertake. There is even an effort underway to make sure that residents (in support of the Krautter's) also attend this meeting to help push this project forward. While these causes and the efforts to support them are noble one’s, the discussions surrounding them are at this point in the process a complete waste of time.

    I expect that little attention will be paid to the single and most important issue on the table, that a “use variance” and NOT an “area variance” is what’s necessary to green light this project. The town could also review their existing law and seek revisions to it, assuming they are also willing to fund the SEQRA study necessary to understand the ramifications of approving or amending such a law.

    So buckle up and get ready for many distractions and lack of focus on what matters, the existing law passed by the Town Board on 2/13/13 and what is necessary to abide by that law!

    When the town starts following the law, including the one they passed on 2/13/13 for assisted living facilities, only then will the residents begin to “live in” and get A Better Greenburgh.

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