Our opponents have aligned themselves with neighbors of the Sunshine Children’s Home & Rehab Center who have sued the Town to block the facility’s proposed expansion. Misinformation about the project has been spread on social media and elsewhere. Here are the facts:
Sunshine Children’s Home is located on a 33-acre property in Ossining, on the west side of the Town of New Castle. Since 1964, the property has been dedicated to serving as a convalescent or nursing home facility. Sunshine presently provides pediatric care for children with the most serious, and often terminal, medical conditions. Their patients are literally the sickest of the sick.
Sunshine is a special place, doing incredible work. Rob toured their facility and was deeply moved. Sunshine is providing a vital service, and we are proud they are part of the community. Rob encouraged Sunshine to become more involved in our community and to let residents know about their work. Click photo to read about the hospital.
Sunshine Children’s Home would like to expand its facility to accommodate an increased number of patients. New York State supports the expansion because it has a waiting list of sick children whose families are being forced to place their kids in distant facilities, some of which are out of state. Needless to say, that can be very hard on families who are already dealing with a lot.
Nevertheless, like any other applicant, Sunshine had to follow all applicable procedures for seeking approval for their proposed expansion. For example, Sunshine had to address all potential environmental impacts, such as increased traffic and wetlands disturbance. Under our Town Code, Sunshine was also required to seek an amendment to its existing special use permit and obtain two variances.
All of these issues were addressed by our Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”), which had exclusive jurisdiction over these matters. After conducting 5 public hearings, listening to experts and reviewing volumes of environmental reports, the ZBA voted unanimously to approve Sunshine’s application.
Even though the Town Board had no jurisdiction over Sunshine’s application, we’ve been criticized for allowing the project to move forward. Our opponents have argued that the Town Board, which is responsible for appointing the ZBA’s members, should have removed them from office. They called our volunteer ZBA members an “obvious and/or substantial problem.” See below —
Let’s fact check:
- The ZBA derives its authority from New York State law and does not answer to the Town Board. By law, the ZBA is an independent board. We can’t tell them what to do.
- The Town Board did not choose the environmental consultants who worked with the ZBA.
- The Town Board has only appointed 1 new member to the ZBA over the past 3 years. The ZBA Chair, who has served on the ZBA since 2002, was unanimously reappointed by the current Town Board.
We understand if residents living near the project site are unhappy with the ZBA’s decision. They have every right to express their opinion, and even sue the Town to stop the project, which they’ve done. But the printed signs that appeared in opposition to this project went too far. We are better than that. We are not talking about building a Walmart in the Woods. This is about plans to expand a hospital for sick children.
We are also troubled by the suggestion that the Town Board should have removed or taken some other action against our ZBA members based on their decision. Sometimes the ZBA makes decisions that are unpopular. But that’s not a reason to impugn their integrity and motives. A mob mentality is unacceptable. The ZBA is not a “substantial problem”, as our opponents have said. The ZBA deserves our respect and gratitude for volunteering their time and making tough decisions, even when we disagree with those decisions.