There’s a new neighbor preparing to move onto Long Hill Road in Smithtown, but residents have troubling concerns as to whether an adult group home will fit into their quiet community.
Long Hill Road residents presented a petition to Town of Smithtown officials at their Sept. 5 meeting to voice their concerns about a property recently purchased to build a group home for six developmentally disabled adults.
“This is not against the group home or the people in it, it’s against the location,” said Long Hill Road resident Richard Troise. “It’s the fact the town didn’t even look at the location. It’s not a good location for the amount of cars and traffic.”
Catholic Guardian Services, a religious nonprofit that provides a wide array of services and support for the needy in New York, purchased the Long Hill Road property in mid-August for approximately $440,000 to house six women, according to Executive Director Craig Longley. He said the women are “profoundly disabled,” all diagnosed with a developmental disability, in addition to being blind or visually impaired, deaf, and even wheelchair bound.
Troise and several of his neighbors are opposed to the development, concerned it will negatively impact the quality of life on their dead-end street. They point to medical personnel entering and exiting the property as a potential increase to traffic and safety hazards on a block where several families with young children reside.
“One of the reasons given to decline this group home is the nature and the character of the surrounding area would be substantially altered,” said Joan Zipfel, a Long Hill Road resident. “[It will create] frequent traffic continually driving up and down the cul-de-sac, which by nature necessitates a turn around. The negative impact of allowing this particular group home should have been addressed.”
Residents’ objections may be too late to make a difference. Smithtown residents want to know why town officials never informed them of the proposed plans for a group home on the end of their block.
Catholic Guardian Services sent a letter dated March 17 to town officials providing notice of the organization’s intention to purchase the property for a group home in accordance with state law, Longley said. The letter gave a 40-day time frame for the town to either object or respond with any concerns.
“When I got the letter, I called to speak to the director of the agency,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) said. “I called and asked them if they were going to be doing outreach to the community. I was told they would notify residents.”
Troise said he and his neighbors never received a letter or any contact from Catholic Guardian Services prior to closing on the property.
Longley said there may have been “some miscommunication” between parties. He said it is not within his organization’s standard practice to notify individual residents of new developments, but rather reach out to a community board or government to see if there are concerns. If issues are raised, the nonprofit hosts a community forum, presents their plans and answer any questions.
“In the absence [of a response], we assumed there was no opposition or no concerns,” Longley said. “We would be happy to meet with the community to share who we are and our intention of being the best of neighbors.”
Longley said the nonprofit plans to spend approximately $600,000 to renovate the property.
The group home will have three staff members per eight-hour shift, with three shifts per day. Additionally, there may be transport vehicles to get residents to and from daycare programs, but Longley said he didn’t expect ambulances or other medical vehicles to be traveling to and from the adult home on a regular basis.
Catholic Guardian Services will plan for an open house in the future, according to Longley, and invite those concerned to tour one of their other group homes on Long Island.