St. Johnland Nursing Center wants to build a continuing care retirement community across the street from its existing facility. Photo by Rachel Shapiro
October 03, 2012 | 08:23 PMPlanning to build a continuing care retirement community across the street from its existing facility on Sunken Meadow Road in Kings Park, St. Johnland Nursing Center recently submitted a draft environmental impact statement for the project to the town.
The Smithtown Town Board accepted the draft EIS at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.
While recommendations from the town Planning Department may change some facets of the plan, St. Johnland Nursing Center hopes to build a senior community, consisting of a mixture of apartments, town homes and beds in an assisted living facility, the facility's chief executive officer, Mary Jean Weber, said.
There would be 24 beds in the assisted living facility and the remaining 175 units would be split between apartments and town homes, Weber said.
Continuing care retirement communities — or CCRCs as they're known in the planning world — have been limited in New York, but are more common in other parts of the country.
"We feel there's quite a need because healthy people want to stay close to their families," but they may need some assistance, Weber said. "There's a certain amount of security being in a CCRC."
With a CCRC, residents could start in an apartment or town home and move to assisted living, if they need that type of care. From there, they could move on to the existing nursing home.
"It really gives people that continuum of care for the rest of their life, should they need it," Weber said.
No land swap in the works
Plans for a CCRC on the 50 wooded acres across the street from the nursing home, to the south, have come up before. But those plans fell through.
While he had not yet read the draft EIS, having just received it, Planning Director Frank DeRubeis said he is a proponent of the nursing home and the state swapping land, an idea that had been discussed years before.
In that scenario, the CCRC would be built on the site of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, just across Old Dock Road to the east. The 50 acres across the street from the nursing center in turn would be incorporated either into Sunken Meadow State Park to the west or Nissequogue River State Park to the east.
But there has not been sufficient interest from the state and no one else has lobbied successfully for such a deal, DeRubeis said.
Weber said she remembers the idea was thrown around years ago.
"There had been conversations in the past, but it was not something that was feasible between the two of us," she said.
DeRubeis and other proponents of a swap argue that by giving the 50 acres to the state for parkland, the two state parks would be connected, making a continuous park along the North Shore.
"Why are we ripping apart 50 acres of passive land when we have 600 acres next door?" DeRubeis said, referring to Nissequogue River State Park, home to the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center.
The approval process
The nursing center would need the town to change the existing zoning on the 50 acres from one house per acre residential to retirement community zone — RC.
There are wetlands on the plot but plans call for building around them, DeRubeis said.
Before the town considers a zone change, the public has 45 days to review the draft EIS and comment. St. Johnland must respond to the inquiries and then a final EIS would be completed.
Once the Town Board accepts the final EIS, it considers the zone change request.
If it grants the zone change, then the board considers the special exception application for the CCRC. Finally, the board would approve the site plan application.
However, DeRubeis said the applicant may need variances, which could extend the process.
Support, but on different site
At a meeting last February, members of the Kings Park Civic Association expressed support for a CCRC in the community but opposed its proposed location on the 50-acre site.
At the time, civic President Sean Lehmann called for a land swap but has been disappointed that no public officials have made it happen.
"Nobody's really taking the ball," Lehmann said.