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Dec 1, 2015 5:50 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Neighbors Concerned About Proposed Rehabilitation Facility

The house that sits at 3 Sunset Avenue in East Quogue is becoming a residential rehabilitation facility for teens with eating disorders. AMANDA BERNOCCO
Dec 2, 2015 10:15 AM

Homeowners on Sunset Avenue in East Quogue are upset that a California-based rehabilitation facility intends to open a treatment facility for adolescent girls with eating disorders on their residential street.

The Center for Discovery, formally known as Discovery Management Incorporated, bought the two-story brick house at 3 Sunset Avenue in June for $1.8 million, according to town records. The company, which boasts 30 facilities nationwide, typically assists women and teenagers with eating disorders, teenagers with mental health disorders, and teenagers with substance abuse issues, according to its website. Their facilities are all sited in residential neighborhoods.

The East Quogue facility will treat only local teenage girls who are suffering from eating disorders, according to Alexia Mowry, director of clinical outreach for the Center for Discovery. She explained that the company prefers siting its facilities in residential neighborhoods so the girls being treated can be close to their families during the recovery process.

“We’ve had a lot of clients with eating disorders in that area,” Ms. Mowry said of the company’s decision to open a facility in East Quogue. “And there are no adolescent eating disorder programs in New York.”

Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone explained that the company can legally purchase a house because of a state law that permits rehabilitation facilities to override preexisting zoning.

“This facility is designed to have eight clients at a maximum,” Mr. Zappone said, noting that the patients will be living in the home while receiving treatment. “And it’s a residential facility, so there won’t be a lot of day [traffic].”

Still, Sunset Avenue homeowners—who found out on their own that the facility was opening in their neighborhood—said they are uncomfortable having such a center on their block. The discovery prompted 12 of the homeowners to hire Andrew M. Lieb, an attorney with Lieb at Law in Center Moriches, to help them learn more about the Center for Discovery and its parent company. The homeowners have also written letters to Southampton Town officials asking that they intercede to prevent the facility from opening on their street.

When reached this week, Mr. Lieb declined to comment on his research, explaining that it is his firm’s policy not to discuss open cases.

“I just want to stress the fact that the people on this street who are concerned are concerned with how it’s going to affect the character of the street,” said Art Solnick, who lives on Sunset Avenue.

Mr. Solnick, who lives directly across the street from the future facility, said he was the first of his neighbors to learn the news. He said he was good friends with the prior owner—town records state that the house was owned by Thomas Bertorello—before being sold to the Center for Discovery.

“The whole thing is weird,” said Gary Podhaizer, who also lives on Sunset Avenue. “The biggest issue is that the town hasn’t made this public. It seems like they’re trying to hide it, which concerns me.”

Most of his neighbors also think that the town, and the company, purposely kept them in the dark, which is why they hired Mr. Lieb and asked that he write letters to the Center for Discovery and Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

The first letter, dated October 9, was sent to the Center for Discovery’s New York headquarters in White Plains. It requested that company officials meet the homeowners to discuss their plans and urged them to maintain the residential character of their community when they move in. The company has not yet met with its future neighbors.

The letter to Ms. Throne-Holst, dated October 20, reminded her that although the state can legally override its zoning in certain situations, the town still has some control. Mr. Lieb noted in his letter that the town has 40 days to object to the proposal once an application is filed and suggest other locations for the facility.

But Mr. Zappone noted this week that the application was filed in April, suggesting that the window has long since closed. Center for Discovery officials opened communications with the town nearly a year ago, according to Ms. Mowry, who noted that the new facility is expected to open next year.

In his letter, Mr. Lieb also points out that the town could object to the facility if there are too many similar centers already operating in the general area. Presently, there are three treatment facilities within five miles of the Sunset Avenue facility: the Seafield Center in Westhampton Beach, Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre Chemical Dependency Services in Hampton Bays, and the Long Island Center for Recovery, also in Hampton Bays.

But Mr. Zappone pointed out that there is no saturation of such rehabilitation facilities in the community, noting that the closest one is more than a mile away. Also, he pointed out that the facility, Long Island Center for Recovery, does not treat young women with eating disorders.

“There is a proximity condition under the law,” he said. “If there are a certain number of facilities, the town can step in. That is not the case here, however.”

The dozen homeowners also penned their own letters and delivered them to all five Town Board members, including former Councilman Brad Bender who resigned last week after his arrest on federal drug distribution charges. As of earlier this week, the homeowners have not gotten a response from any of the town officials, they said.

“While we are sympathetic to the needs of the future residents of this facility, this facility is not keeping with the fabric of our neighborhood,” reads an excerpt of a letter penned by Larry and Rona Moss of Sunset Avenue. “We feel that there are other areas better suited for this kind of facility other than ours or any other residential neighborhood.”

Mr. Solnick voiced the same stance on Monday.

“I have a sensitivity for this issue,” he said, noting that he is a retired principal with the North Merrick School District. “We just don’t think this is the proper place for a facility. No one has any idea what to expect. All we know is that we have a quiet residential street and now there’s a business on it.”

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This issue has nothing to do with rehab or treatment, and everything to do with a commercial use in a residential neighborhood. When a facility offers full time care, it is acts effectively as a commercial use. That means parking for staff, shift changes at all times of day, lighting, noise, deliveries, garbage removal, repairs, visits by family and relatives, commercial grade kitchens and cooking exhaust fumes, and all the characteristics that cause zoning experts to separate commerical uses from ...more
By nutbeem (26), Westhampton on Dec 2, 15 10:41 AM
3 members liked this comment
You are absolutely correct. Too many times when the East end Hospice was going into Quiogue someone would post how "do good work" or would reference their social mission. The 501c3 Status is completely irrelevant. What matters is a commercial facility in a residential area.
By Hambone (507), New York on Dec 2, 15 10:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
The hospice facility is located just off 27 with a number of commercial establishments next to it. It is not in the center of a residential neighborhood. It will be a quiet place of refuge, not a bustling business, and has been long needed on the East End.
By Crabby (63), Southampton on Dec 2, 15 5:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
I don't think you would say that if you lived in the houses directly across the street East of the new Hospice facility and I happen to support the Hospice mission. It's nice, but if it was built across the street from you in your once "residential" neighborhood you'd probably wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it.
By lirider (263), Hampton Bays on Dec 3, 15 10:39 AM
Absolutely 100% not true. Heading West there is a creek, housing and then Aspatuck gardens. Going East the Hospice is situated on the back side of marina (which is bookended by two residences). Fully 50% of the frontage of the hospice faces homes. 25% is on montauk Highway and the rest faces the bay.

Additionally to being a business in a neighborhood, they got some serious waivers to build so close to the water. You could never get their plans approved if it were a home.

Great ...more
By Hambone (507), New York on Dec 3, 15 11:35 PM
I happen to like the hospice. Good site, good design, good mission, good people all round. If there were just one of these facilities in each residential area, then how could anyone complain?

But there isn't just one. They are proliferating, and they are not getting less commercial in their behavior. More full time multi-occupancy facilities = more lights, more noise, more shift changes, more commercial grade cooking equipment, and on and on.
By nutbeem (26), Westhampton on Dec 3, 15 9:27 AM
No hamlet is safe from this Supervisor and her Deputy.
By HB90 (156), southampton on Dec 3, 15 11:11 PM