Homes for people with mental illness alarm some

GREENPORT–A facility to house 8 to 12 persons with mental health issues on Arthur Avenue drew about 50 residents to the May 5 Town Board meeting. Responses from the public to the proposal by the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties ranged from skeptical to outright hostile.

The association hopes to buy two duplex townhouses at 24, 26, 28 and 30 Arthur Avenue to provide “licensed treatment apartments” for patients working to re-enter society, with about six staff providing supervision and training in cooking, cleaning, personal maintenance and other life skills.

Association Executive Director Jeffrey Rovitz said residents will be people with diagnoses of mood and thought disorders like bipolarity, depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. The average stay would be about two years, according to Residential Division Director Susan Cody.

The Town Board has already filed an objection to the proposal, though because Greenport has no zoning law, there may be little the board can do to stop the plan.

To continued objections that the facility would lower property values in the neighborhood, Mr. Rovitz said studies have found no link between subsidized housing and lowered values.

Several in the neighborhood feared the effect on the many children who live and play there. Resident Maria Fischer said some patients might not be able to “take noise and screaming–kids screaming and riding bikes.”

“This is a quiet neighborhood–we don’t want it. If you want a fight, you’ll have one,” said resident Robert Herring, as he stalked from the room.

In other development news, Kohl’s department store looks like a Go for Greenport Commons–with discounter TJ Maxx tagging along.

Both businesses have applied for building permits to put up stores in the shopping plaza on Fairview Avenue, Building Inspector John Florio told the Town Board.

Widewaters Group, developer of the plaza, twice sought a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) deal from the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency, saying the tax break was essential if Kohl’s was to be brought to Greenport. The IDA declined to consider the first application, and denied the second.

Mr. Florio said approval of the building permits is pending receipt of more information from Kohl’s and code review of the TJ Maxx plans.

And the Planning Board has received plans to convert the vacant Stan Martin Ford dealership on Fairview Avenue to a Dollar General store.

Future planning matters will be handled by a five-member board, with the Town Board’s passage of a resolution reducing the membership from the current six, and setting term expirations for December 31. Serving will be: Charles Hudson (2010), George Super (2011), Michael Bucholsky (2012), Donald Alger (2013) and added to the board is former Councilman Donald Patzwahl (2014).

Councilman Keith Mortefolio voted No on the resolution, because, he said, no interviews were conducted before the vacancy was filled.

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