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Proposed Valhalla Senior Living Project Expected to Receive Negative Declaration

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The Mount Pleasant Planning Board is expected to issue a negative declaration next month for a 170-unit residential project for seniors near a congested area in Valhalla.

Brightview Senior Living is proposing to build a “service enriched” project that would include a combination of independent, assisted living and memory care services on Grasslands Road across the street from Westchester Community College. A negative declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) would mean the project would have no significant adverse environmental impacts and result in a less substantial review.

Once it receives the declaration, Brightview can appear before the Town Board to pursue a rezoning to a Service Enriched Housing floating zone from its current residential zone.

Last Thursday evening the board signaled that it was ready for staff to draw up a resolution to make the negative declaration, possibly for its February meeting.

Despite the size of the proposed facility, consultants for the applicant as well as the town concluded that the traffic generated by the project would not cause conditions to worsen on Grasslands Road or near the congested intersection with Bradhurst Avenue. Most of the residents would not be leaving or arriving during the peak morning and afternoon traffic times or leaving the site at all, representatives for Brightview contended.

“The project itself would not result in any significant impact to conditions and there are some improvements that are associated with the project that will help the conditions,” said David Cooper, an attorney representing the applicant.

Proposed improvements would include installation of a traffic signal on Grasslands Road at the entrance and exit to the facility, which will be aligned with the access point to Westchester Community College, and widening of Grasslands Road to provide left turn lanes into both sites, said project engineer Diego Villareale of John Meyer Consulting.

There would also be adjustments to the timing of the traffic signal at Grasslands Road and Bradhurst Avenue and improved signage in the area.

Villareale said Brightview has recognized since it formally submitted its application about two years ago that Grasslands Road is a challenging thoroughfare, particularly during peak hours near the intersection with Bradhurst Avenue. However, it’s the community college’s traffic volumes, not the proposed development, that has triggered the need for the traffic light and turn lanes, he said.

“Again, it has its challenges during very specific hours and it will continue to do so, but we continue to work with the board and staff to make a number of improvements along this corridor and we feel we’ve done that with the widening and the traffic signal installation and now the signal timing modifications that we proposed,” Villareale said.

When the project was first pitched before the Planning Board, members were skeptical about the traffic on Grasslands Road but were satisfied with the studies conducted. The biggest pushback last week was concern expressed by board member Joan Lederman that the facility would put a strain on emergency services, especially the volunteer ambulance corps.

Lederman said that at another assisted living facility in town, 100 residents generate an average of 25 ambulance calls a month.

“This is the biggest problem with these facilities,” she said. “I don’t know how we fix that. I think staffing of these facilities should have better medical staff more capable of triaging the people who live there and not calling EMS services for ridiculous things.”

But Steve Marker, development director for Brightview, said there will be medical staff on hand around the clock trained in CPR and first aid.

“We do limit the calls coming from our community in that way,” Marker said. “We do feel our policies help mitigate some of the burden on the town services.”

In addition to a zoning change, Brightview would need site plan, steep slopes and wetlands approvals from the town.

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