Katonah Group Home Reactions Were Mixed Prior To Approval

(This is our final post about the Sept. 29 meeting and vote pertaining to the proposed group home. Previous coverage is available here):

Prior to the Bedford Town Board's Sept. 29 vote in favor of a deal containing assurances from Cardinal McCloskey Community Services for a proposed Katonah group home, resident Marianne O'Toole urged the board to object.

Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

Nancy Bellini criticizes opposition to the proposed group home in Katonah prior to the Bedford Town Board's Sept. 29 approval of a deal containing assurances from home provider Cardinal McCloskey Community Services

Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Attendees at the Bedford Town Board's Sept. 29 meeting prior to the group home assurances vote.

Attendees at the Bedford Town Board's Sept. 29 meeting prior to the group home assurances vote.

Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. -- Residents who live near the site of a proposed Katonah group home continued to blast the proposal at the Bedford Town Board’s final meeting prior to approving a deal with assurances from Cardinal McCloskey Community Services (CMCS), the facility’s provider. Other residents, however, spoke in defense before the vote.

Resident Marianne O’Toole called on the Town Board to object to the proposal and dismissed the integrity of a Sept. 29 letter on behalf of CMCS. More details about the assurances from the letter, which were the basis of the board’s approval, are available here.

“It should object until it gets a proper assurance,” she said.

Richard Rosenthal argued that the town should not give up a negotiating position.

“It’s a one-time deal,” he said.

Several neighbors voiced an ongoing concern about the vicinity of the site’s proposal, which involves using a red home at 4 Old Mill Lane for four developmentally disabled adults. Residents likened the area to a “choke point,” and some expressed concern about closure of the neighborhood’s only access road if there is an emergency. More information about traffic studies conducted for the project is available here.

Another issue frequently raised by opponents involved a fear that the group home could end up housing sex offenders. Several alluded to such a scenario that happened in the upstate town of West Seneca, which was widely covered by media in the region.

Lee Presser urged an objection to the group because he argued that CMCS doesn’t control who can live in the home, but rather it is up to the state’s Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). In the Sept. 29 letter, CMCS Chief Operating Officer William Ursillo brought up his organization’s opposition to housing such a population and expressed doubt that OPWDD could mandate it.

Some spoke against considering an alternative location for the group home.

“I will not send or throw my own neighbors under the bus,” said David Varoli.

Several residents spoke in defense, however.

Michael Minard, who lives near the site, said he and his wife were assured that staff and residents will be screened for aggressive behavior and criminal backgrounds. He also noted that CMCS has not served people who have criminal histories.

“This is not part of its mission,” he said. Additionally, he talked about differences between CMCS and the provider in the West Seneca case.

Andrew Kuhn mentioned a letter from his wife, Rachel Asher, which was recently published in The Record-Review in support of the proposal.

Asher, in her letter, wrote about her proximity to an existing group home in downtown Katonah.

“We have never heard of any issue or problem arising from the group home,” she wrote. “Instead, we see the residents on the sidewalk daily, travelling to jobs and training sessions, and they are a part of the fabric of the neighborhood.”

Nancy Bellini argued that disabled people were being compared to sex offenders – another opponent later disputed this – and urged support for the developmentally disabled. She raised the notion of there being a double standard when it comes to property activity for a group home compared to other scenarios.

Video clips of remarks from O'Toole and Bellini are embedded in this story.

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