Mt. Pleasant Rejects Second Group Home; Appeal Planned
For the second time in three weeks, the Mount Pleasant Town Board rejected a proposal to convert a private house into a group home.
The board voted 3-1 against a plan from Yonkers-based Ferncliff Manor to convert a house at 330 Bear Ridge Rd. into an individualized residential alternative for six adults with developmental disabilities. The house is located in an unincorporated section of town.
Ferncliff Manor will appeal the board’s decision with the state, one of its representatives vowed.
On March 11, the town turned down a proposal from Devereux New York for a group home at 659 Belleview Ave. in Thornwood for four adults with autism. Devereux announced last week it would not pursue an appeal of the decision to the state.
Town board members who voted against Ferncliff Manor’s proposal said the town already was oversaturated with nonprofits that do not pay property taxes. Once again, Councilman Denis McCarthy was the lone dissenting vote. Councilman Carl Fulgenzi was absent.
Ferncliff Manor Assistant Executive Director Patricia Saich said the agency wanted to provide a home for three men and three women with developmental disabilities and are too old to live on Ferncliff Manor’s Yonkers campus. The six young adults would spend their weekdays at various programs, including jobs, she said.
There would be adequate parking and staff members would be on the site at all times when the residents are at the home, she said.
While public reaction on the Devereux proposal was mixed, comments regarding the Ferncliff Manor plan were overwhelmingly in opposition. Opponents said they respected the work of the agency, but the house should not be converted.
Resident Susan Cassone said at 74 she is forced to work to pay her property taxes. The town cannot afford to have another facility off the tax rolls, she said. Another resident, Todd Martalin, said there were more than enough nonprofit agencies operating in town, which create “a loss in taxes.”
“The house is not designed for this,” Martalin said.
Supervisor Joan Maybury said there are four bedrooms in the house, but only three are allowed. Building Inspector Sal Pennelle said he had issued a notice of violation to the house’s owners because of the bedroom count.
Resident Mary Dura contended that the house would be inappropriate for a group home. It would be difficult for vehicles to exit the property without encountering oncoming traffic.
“It’s a blind curve,” she said.
Pleasantville School District Special Education PTA Co-President Sheryl Frishman was one of the few who supported the proposal. There are some children with autism who live on Bear Ridge Road who are presenting no problems to the neighborhood, she said.
Janet Abinanti, wife of Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, read a letter from her and her husband, who did not attend the meeting, in support of the plan. She said they have a son who lives in a group home.
“We have yet to hear of any complaints” about the home, said Abinanti, who lives on Bear Ridge Road.
Maybury reiterated her arguments that the town had an excessive number of nonprofit facilities. Mount Pleasant has the third-highest number of group homes in the county, trailing only New Rochelle and Mount Vernon, both cities, she said. The more than 40 nonprofit facilities in Mount Pleasant translates into an annual loss of $2,757,000 in property tax revenue, she said.
In supporting the application, McCarthy said as the rate of autism diagnoses is increasing, so will the need for group homes. According to a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, one in 55 Americans have been diagnosed with autism, up from a previous study that found one in 88 have autism, he said.
McCarthy said the proposed group home could not be compared to the Pleasantville Cottage School and other faculties which have children from outside the area that have different needs that those cared for by Ferncliff Manor.
But Councilman Mark Rubeo said with the proliferation of nonprofit residential facilities in town, Mount Pleasant cannot afford to lose additional tax revenues.