By Victoria Espinoza
The sun seems set to rise on a new assisted living facility in Huntington Station.
Last week the Huntington town board unanimously approved a zone change for a 5.7 acre property on Jericho Turnpike and West Hills Road owned by Sunrise Development, Inc.
The land, located at 300 West Hills Road, is currently in a residential zone, and will be changed to a residential health services district to allow for the developer to create a two-story, 90-unit structure with 136 beds. After meetings with the town planning board, the developer has agreed to changes including staff shift changes timed to avoid peak traffic with the nearby Walt Whitman High School, “significant” landscape buffers between the facility and residences, and more.
At the May town board meeting, at least 10 residents that will neighbor the facility came to speak in support of the plan, though other residents came to oppose it.
According to the applicant, they held three community meetings as well as individual meetings with residents to hear their concerns and ideas to help make the facility the best it could be for the entire neighborhood.
Priscilla Jahir, a 34-year South Huntington resident was one of those speaking in opposition.
“I have no personal vendetta against seniors as I am one,” she said at the meeting. “I oppose the increase in traffic on West Hills Road, both during the 14-month-plus construction time and afterword as any increase in traffic will be a hardship to anyone traveling along that route. I feel that this facility is better suited for a larger access road.”
Diane Tanko presented a petition asking for a reduction in the size of the plan before granting them a zoning change.
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said the main traffic contributors are expected to be the employees, not the residents who will live at the facility.
“If you reduce units you’re not really reducing traffic generation,” Cuthbertson said. “The people living there are generally not driving.”
Tanko responded that visitors also increase traffic, but Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said “sadly,” there were not many visitors at the other locations during the several times of the day she went to track the traffic and fullness of the parking lots.
Kevin McKenna, a South Huntington resident said he was in favor of the plan.
“I have two kids that attend Walt Whitman High School and I pass this location at least twice a day,” he said at the meeting. “I attended an informational meeting for the project set up by Sunrise and I walked away very impressed with the plan and the measures they’re taking with bringing the project to the neighborhood.”
He said he appreciated specifically how Sunrise intends to exceed setback measures for houses and fund landscape dividers at houses near the property.
Thomas Newman, a third-generation Peach Tree Lane resident said he’s seen the area change throughout the years and supports this change.
“After 25 years of being in the business of architecture and seeing their [Sunrise] designs, I think it would be an asset to our community,” he said. “I’d be happy to have my kids live fourth-generation on that street with this.”
Arthur Gibson, president of Plumbers Local Union 200, spoke in support of the plan.
“They’ve built I believe 15 similar units on Long Island, and they’ve consistently used a contractor…meaning local jobs for local people,” Gibson said at the meeting. “There’s so many times, I could tell you horror story after horror story where our contractors don’t get paid. Sunrise Senior Living, they pay their bills, and that’s very important for a construction man or woman on Long Island.”
The company said they are “negotiating in good faith” with the union currently for the job.