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Attorneys Dominate ZBA Hearing on Sober Home

Published by: "The Nothern Westchester Examiner"
Written by: Rick Pezzullo
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May 05, 2014

The legal eagles were soaring at Yorktown Town Hall last week as the Zoning Board of Appeals continued its deliberations over a proposed sober living home on Underhill Avenue.

As was the case in March, the ZBA heard a litany of arguments from attorneys for the applicants, Tom McCrossan and Mark McGoldrick, a/k/a Compass Westchester, and two neighbors, Linda
Gironda and Al French, regarding the interpretation of the code by Building Inspector John Winter that the facility for recovering alcohol and substance abuse addicts at 482 Underhill Avenue falls under the definition of a “convalescent home.”

Michael Sirignano, attorney for Gironda and French, and town officials, maintained there were currently no convalescent homes operating in Yorktown and the sober home does not fit the criteria of either a convalescent home or a nursing home, which are treated the same in the town’s Zoning Code. Therefore, itshould not be allowed to be considered for a three-year special permit by the Town Board. (A continuation of the public hearing on the special permit will be held by the Town Board on Tuesday, May 6, at Yorktown Town Hall).

“If a use is not listed as a permitted use, it’s prohibited,” Sirignano said. “They are trying to make themselves into something they are not.”

Al Capellini and Bob Davis, attorneys for Compass Westchester, contended Winter was correct in identifying the sober home residence with a convalescent home since it meets the criteria of having three or more people who suffer from any disease, affirmity or ailment and are habitually kept or bordered.

“This is not a public opinion poll. This is a legal matter;’ Davis stressed. “People are there to convalesce from the disorder that they have. There’s no way in the world that this doesn’t fit the wording of the code. To argue otherwise is transparent nonsense.”

The terms convalescent and nursing home were added to Yorktown’s Zoning Code in 1969 and special permits for such uses were issued by the ZBA. That was amended in 1997 and the special permit authority was transferred to the Town Board.

“I think what this comes down to is if this is a convalescent home;’ said ZBA Vice Chairman Gregg Bucci. “It’s either a convalescent home or it’s not. That’s what we have to decide.”

Meanwhile, Sirignano raised questions about whether Winter wrote his memo about the code alone or received assistance from ZBA member William Gregory, as Shrub Oak resident George Brink alleged he overheard in a conservation.

Town Attorney Jeannette Koster later defended Winter and conceded she helped Winter draft the memo.
“I don’t know if anyone looked at the memo but me. I’m the town attorney. I represent town staff;’ she said. “It definitely reflected my editing.”
The ZBA adjourned the public hearing to May 22 to allow Gregory, who was not in attendance, an opportunity to respond to Sirignano’s claims.