GARDEN CITY, NY-A new zoning code amendment enacted by the town of Huntington here will facilitate the development of assisted living facilities in the Suffolk County town, a local zoning attorney said. The new zoning category, called R-HS Residential Health Services, will allow operators of assisted living facilities and other senior facilities–except senior housing–to build properties at greater densities than previously permitted and in more areas of the town than formerly allowed.

Previously, assisted living facilities and other senior facilities were included in the same zoning classification as senior housing. Keith Brown, a partner in the Garden City law firm Brown & Altman LLP, tells that because they were included in the same zoning classification, the town was only getting senior facilities applications.

“Until now, the zoning code was very restrictive and prevented the development of assisted living facilities in the town of Huntington due to its technical requirements,” says Brown. “Practically speaking, the code did not permit yields that made these projects viable.”

Brown tells that so far, the new zoning category has not yet affected any properties, but “it may affect future development.” Brown continues that “the town board and planning staff responded to the industry’s concerns by completely revamping the code to make these projects more economically feasible. Town Supervisor Frank Petrone and the Huntington Town Board also recognized that assisted living facilities are greatly needed in light of our aging population.”

Approved on June 11 by the Huntington Town Board, the R-HS zoning district will permit the construction assisted living facilities with units of a minimum size of 2,200 sf, compared with units of 3,000 sf before the zoning code change. The new zoning provision leaves the five-acre site requirement unchanged. The new code requires that 30% of the property be landscaped.

“The new zoning will allow development of assisted living facilities along arterial roads, such as Jericho Turnpike, in addition to collector streets,” Brown adds. “It will also allow developers of these facilities to reuse underutilized commercial sites in the town.”

He adds that “procedurally, any assisted living facility will require a change of zone application to the town board. This will permit the town board to exercise greater control over the zoning approval process for assisted living facilities.” The old zoning required the issuance of special-use permits by the Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals, which could be challenged in court, Brown says. A change of zone is considered to be a legislative act and is virtually impossible to challenge in court, he says.

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