Newly revised plans for a proposed Smithtown assisted living facility have exposed the underlying tensions between Town of Smithtown officials.
The developers of Whisper Landing Assisted Living Facility submitted revised plans for a proposed three-story facility on the northeast corner of River Heights Drive and Route 25a in Smitthown.
Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown's Planning Director, said the newly revised plans were made after the September public hearing on the property drew strong opposition from local residents and takes into account some requests of the town's planning department.
Residents came out in force against the proposed Whisper Landing Assisted Living Facility complaining of traffic on Route 25a.
"Traffic on [Route] 25 is already at capacity," said Smithtown resident William Kerney. "You already have a reduced lane on [Route] 25, which anybody that drives the area knows, you go to work you're in one lane, going through the town you're in one lane. It's already overburdened, why should we add more?"
Under the revised plans, developers have reduced the proposed building's height to 35 feet and the structures will be set back further from local roadways.
Supervisor Patrick Vecchio was unable to comment on the changes to these plans and how it might impact residents, saying he was one of three town council members not made aware that revised plans had been submitted.
Whisper Landing developers presented their revised plans in a private meeting with town board members Ed Wehrheim and Rob Creighton, Town Attorney John Zollo, and DeRubeis last Thursday.
"There's too much of the town attorney in town matters without knowledge of other board members, one of them being me. It's insulting and not good government," Vecchio said.
The supervisor voiced suspicions about why the facility's developers sought out Wehrheim and Creighton, without contacting him or town council members Kevin Malloy and Thomas McCarthy. All five town board members share affiliation with the Republican party.
Zollo told Vecchio he was taking the meeting "out of context and over reacting."
The town attorney, Creighton and Wehrheim said the purpose of the meeting had been to determine if the plans had been sufficiently altered to require a second public hearing.
Vecchio said given the overwhelming public response to the proposed Whisper Landing Assisted Living Facility, there should have been no doubt that a second public hearing would be necessary.
The division over meeting with developers revealed tensions among town officials.
"Things are being done in town hall without participation of other town board through town attorney... Why is town attorney involved in every aspect of government?," Vecchio asked.
Zollo insisted there was no hidden agenda to the meeting and no wrong-doing on his behalf, DeRubeis or town council members, but that his office and legal expertise is available upon request by any town official.
Creighton suggested that Vecchio, if so upset, make a new town policy that all town board members must be informed of such meetings.
"It’s not a policy, it's good town government," Vecchio said.
The town will be setting a date for a second public hearing on the revised plans for Whisper Landing Assisted Living Facility. Residents can review the plans at the town's planning department.