HealthThe Examiner

Mt. Pleasant Loses Legal Battle Over Valhalla Group Home

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The house at 5 Halsey Place in Valhalla that will soon be the site of a group home.

For five years the Town of Mount Pleasant opposed the use of a Valhalla house to serve developmentally disabled adults.

Last month the protracted legal challenge came to an end following a decision by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court that denied the town’s petition to prevent the residential facility from opening.

In 2018, the town sued the Young Adult Institute (YAI), the nonprofit organization planning to open the home on Halsey Place for six adult women with autism, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy.

The town claimed that more than 40 similar homes and residential facilities were in the area and one more would substantially change the character of the area.

Before challenging YAI, residents were split on the issue, voicing both their concerns and support at a public hearing. Among the chief complaints was an expected increase in traffic.

Subsequently, an administrative hearing was held with the acting commissioner of the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities serving as the presiding officer, which resulted in a rejection of the town’s claim.

In April 2019, an Article 78 was filed on behalf of the town, which challenged the acting commissioner’s decision.

On July 26, the Appellate Division ruled that the town failed to meeting its burden with convincing evidence that the group home would “result in an overconcentration of the same or similar facilities so as to substantially alter the nature and character of the area.”

“Here, contrary to the Town’s contention, the Acting Commissioner’s determination was supported by substantial evidence,” the ruling continued.

The town disagreed with the decision but accepted the final outcome after several years of legal disputes.

“While the Appellate Division held that the town was not oversaturated with non-profit facilities, the town respectfully disagrees, but respects the decision,” Town Attorney Darius Chafizadeh said. “The town welcomes the residents of the group home and looks forward to assisting the residents in anyway it can.”

YAI CEO Kevin Carey said his organization was pleased the court upheld the rights of those with disabilities.

“People with developmental disabilities want the same thing as everyone else – the opportunity to be productive members of their local community,” Carey said. “We are happy they will have this opportunity in Mount Pleasant.”

YAI, which owns the property, is eligible for a tax exemption that could cost the town and Mount Pleasant School District an estimated $17,000 a year.

The 4,000-square-foot house, at 5 Halsey Place, which is a cul-de-sac, was to undergo renovations, including the addition of another bedroom and removing the backyard swimming pool.

“As for the house itself, the pool was removed months ago and we are not adding an extra bedroom,” said Sarah Schwed, YAI senior director of communications.

The plan was to house six developmentally disabled women, ages 22 to 33, who would live with 24-hour supervision. Schwed confirmed there will be six residents living at the home.

“We’re hoping they can start moving in by September,” Schwed said. “We are looking forward to having the people we support move into their new home soon.”

YAI was started in 1957 in New York City. Along with a network of affiliate agencies, they employ over 4,000 employees and support more than 20,000 people living in New York, New Jersey and California. Among their goals is to find permanent housing for over 700 people, including over 100 disabled people in Westchester.

YAI also offers children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities a comprehensive range of services.


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