BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Following a legal opinion from Bedford’s counsel, the Town Board approved countersigning an agreement of assurances from the provider of a proposed Katonah group home instead of making an objection to it.
The unanimous vote on Monday, Sept. 29, came following a review from Town Attorney Joel Sachs of state case law and correspondences from provider Cardinal McCloskey Community Services giving assurances for its plan. A letter from CMCS, dated Sept. 29, includes a signature from Chief Operating Officer William Ursillo and space for a town signatory.
Sachs explained that if the supervisor were to countersign, then the letter would be a legally binding agreement. The board’s approval was for Supervisor Chris Burdick to give his signature.
Ursillo, in his letter, mentions that the assurances are applicable if there is no objection filed and if there is no litigation that would seek to stop or delay the facility’s opening or closing on the property. Sachs also noted that the assurances would not be binding if there is an objection.
The proposal for a home at 4 Old Mill Lane would have housing for four developmentally disabled adults.
Ursillo also addresses a topic that was a public concern at a previous board meeting.
“First, and as you are aware, CMCS specifically serves children in need as well as adults with developmental disabilities. Importantly, we do not have any programs for individuals with alcohol or substance abuse disorders or programs for sexual offenders,” he stated.
Ursillo added that this has never been his organization’s intention for the proposal. He also noted that the understanding is the state’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities lacks authority to require accepting those populations.
Several speakers on Monday expressed concern that the office would have sex offenders moved into the home, with contention that CMCS would be overridden by the office. Several speakers alluded to a situation in the upstate community of West Seneca, where sex offenders were brought into two group homes, a story that has been covered extensively by the region’s media outlets.
Other options that the town could have considered, according to Sachs, included suggesting alternative sites, and objecting based on over-concentration of group homes. Sachs was not sure whether the town could make the concentration argument, given that there are only six group homes across the town and one in Katonah. Another Katonah group is not being counted because it does not meet certain criteria, it was disclosed.
If there is an objection, an appeal would go to the commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. If the commissioner rules against the town, a lawsuit could be filed to overturn the decision. However, Sachs could not find any examples of such a suit being successful.
Prior to the vote, officials discussed emergency call data for existing local group homes and a pair of traffic studies: one on behalf of CMCS and another on the town’s behalf.
The vote was 3-0, with Councilman Peter Chryssos and Deputy Supervisor David Gabrielson recusing themselves. Chyrssos' absence was previously noted, while Gabrielson's decision was announced by Burdick, who read a statement from him at the meeting's start.
Gabrielson's recusal was due to remarks from him that were overheard at a Sept. 9 Planning Board meeting about opponents, his statement explains.
“My comments were unfair and I regret them," the statement adds.
Neighbors' concerns have included traffic safety and the site's surroundings, which include a slope and a triangular intersection.
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