New Castle Sets Sunshine Well Monitoring Meeting, Issues Permit

The site of the Sunshine Children’s Home and Rehab Center & Rehabilitation Center where there will soon be the start of construction.

A Mar. 6 public information session has been scheduled to review the Sunshine Children’s Home & Rehabilitation Center offsite well monitoring program after neighbors appealed to officials for a chance to review and assess the data.

Monitoring to determine the expanded facility’s impact on neighboring wells is a condition of Sunshine’s approval. However, Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis recently told neighbors that issuance of the building permit is not limited or contingent upon the monitoring.

“The well monitoring program is being done to see what the impact would be when the building is constructed,” Ward-Willis said. “The purpose of the well monitoring is to establish a baseline, which is being done now, and then when the new facility is built and in operation, to my understanding, that is when you would see the impact.”

Sunshine received its building permit on Feb. 6 and is on the verge of beginning work at its Spring Valley Road Valley Road site, according to an update on the facility’s website. Plans call for a significantly larger facility of more than 143,000 square feet with as many as 122 beds. The current 19,000-square-foot building has a 54-patient capacity.

A couple of residents addressed the Town Board at its Jan. 29 meeting, saying that tests that have been ongoing for about the past six months should be analyzed before any site work is started.

Cedar Lane resident Laura Whitlinger said the neighbors have concerns because three years ago she heard the town hydrogeologist state there wasn’t enough water at the time to support the expansion project as a result of drought conditions at the time.

She also mentioned that a 2013 letter has been uncovered from the former attorney for the Sunshine home that was sent to former town supervisor Susan Carpenter and the mayor and supervisor of the village and town of Ossining at the time which stated reliance on wells and electric backup was unacceptable.

“To issue building permits before we’ve had the chance to review that data would be no different than announcing the winner of the election before all the votes are counted,” Whitlinger said.

The Sunshine application has been the subject of extensive litigation by neighbors who have contended that the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals should have issued a positive declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act. That would have triggered a more robust environmental evaluation of the site and the project.

Supervisor Robert Greenstein said two weeks ago that the town would see that a meeting is held to update the neighbors. However, the Town Board has no authority over the project and the building inspector independently determines when an applicant receives a building permit.

“It’s not connected in any way, shape or form to your request for a meeting regarding the well monitoring,” Greenstein said. “It has nothing to do with us being delinquent. It has everything to do with us being diligent, following the statute, following the law and doing everything the way it’s supposed to be done.”

Another neighboring resident, Charlie Bennett of Cedar Lane, appealed to town officials to have information available for the community regarding the construction schedule and any updates. Bennett said the matter is an important quality-of-life issue, particularly since the Sunshine site borders Ossining’s Cedar Lane Park and parents with small children visit the park in good weather.

Once Sunshine begins site work, improvement of the existing driveway is expected to be the first task that will be done.

Whitlinger said that while she’s grateful that the Town Board has scheduled the informational meeting, but it will not prevent the facility from getting built despite deep concern regarding water supply.

“The well testing was never going to change the outcome as evidenced by the issuing of permits before the data could be analyzed by both sides,” she said. There is no remediation plan by the Town of New Castle or the Sunshine Home if neighbors lose their wells. Neighbors have the choice to sue, which will take years before they can get any relief, or they can move and take the loss of their home.”

The Mar. 6 informational meeting, which will be at Town Hall at 7 p.m., will include the town’s consulting hydrogeologist William Canavan and Director of Planning Sabrina Charney Hull.

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