Sunshine Children’s Home & Rehabilitation Center has applied for three permits with the Town of New Castle connected to the sudden site work on its Spring Valley Road property that started shortly after Thanksgiving.
The applicant, which has proposed a roughly 128,000-squre-foot expansion of its facility that would more than double its existing 54 beds, is now seeking a tree removal permit, a demolition permit and a building permit for a retaining wall for work done at the site, according to a memo on Monday from Building Inspector Richard Polcari.
In his correspondence to the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, Polcari stated that following a site inspection by the assistant building inspector on Nov. 30, Sunshine Children’s Home agreed to halt work while awaiting the permits.
“Sunshine has agreed to perform no further work pending the issuance of the required permits,” Polcari stated. “Sunshine will be submitting a letter to the Town from its consultant setting forth the basis for its position that the deepening of Well No. 1 will not impact the existing amount of water being drawn from the site wells.”
Appearances scheduled for this week before the Planning Board and ZBA have been adjourned until next month.
Polcari said a tree removal permit was needed for one tree that was taken down that was 18 inches in diameter and a tree replacement plan showing the planting of four two-and-a-half-inch replacement trees, Polcari stated. The demolition permit was for the removal of a shed housing Well No. 1, one of three active wells on the site that supplies the facility with water.
Improvements to that well had been sought by Sunshine, according to the Westchester County Health Department.
A building permit for a retaining wall is also required to prevent possible erosion of the slope adjacent to where the shed had stood.
Complaints were lodged by neighbors after the Thanksgiving weekend describing excavation, demolition and tree removal on the property with the use of heavy equipment. The activity prompted the New Castle Planning Board to take no action at its Dec. 5 meeting regarding the ZBA referral that pertains to Sunshine’s amended special permit request pending the outcome of the town’s investigation.
The county Health Department told The Examiner last Friday that Sunshine’s engineering consultant notified the agency on Nov. 20 that it would deepen Well No. 1. The notification is required for work to commence, but no permit or application is needed from the department, said spokeswoman Caren Halbfinger.
Similar work was performed on Well No. 2 last year, she said.
“The health department acknowledged the notification and responded with no objection to the deepening of Well #1,” she said.
In September, Sunshine received the agency’s approval for three new wells on the property. However, Sunshine has not submitted an application to connect the wells to the current system, Halbfinger said.
What is still under review by the town is whether Sunshine has violated the conditions of its special permit.
“The property owner has been asked to submit additional information concerning the work,” Polcari said. “Once the Town has reviewed that information, a final determination will be made.”
However, an attorney for one of Sunshine’s neighbors is arguing that the ZBA should deny its request for an amended special permit because of Sunshine’s “knowing and flagrant violation of the ZBA approvals and Town Law.”
Attorney Mark Chertok, representing Cynthia and Jeffrey Manocherian, wrote a letter to the ZBA that the recent work at the site is directly related to Sunshine searching for enough water to support the expansion of its facility.
Chertok stated that the documented deepening of Well No. 2 failed to produce enough additional water, which led to the attempts to deepen Well No. 1. He said the negative declaration under the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) by the ZBA assumed no potential adverse impacts on groundwater at the site due to the expansion, but it required off-site well monitoring.
But the monitoring had yet to begin at the time of the recent activity, Chertok argued. Therefore, the ZBA must deny the special permit and reopen the SEQRA process.
“As it has done since it purchased the property, Sunshine has once again acted as though it is entitled to do whatever it wants to do with its property without necessary Town permits,” Chertok stated. “The ZBA must not reward Sunshine for its illegal behavior.”
Thus far, Sunshine Children’s Home has not been subjected to any fines.