Center will be first assisted living facility in Southampton

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Senior citizens who do not yet require the around-the-clock care offered in nursing homes, but might need minimal assistance, could soon have a new housing option in Southampton Town.

The owners of the Westhampton Care Center, a nursing home on Old Country Road in Westhampton, are proposing to build an assisted living facility that can accommodate 100 people just to the east of their current nursing home. The new facility, which would be at least two stories high and have a 49,208-square-foot footprint on three properties totalling 15.7 acres, would share staff members, a driveway and other facilities with the existing nursing home. However, it would be maintained as a separate business.

The facility, the first of its kind ever proposed in the town, will feature rooms measuring a little more than 400 square feet in size. Four nearly 1,100-square-foot, two-bedroom suites are also proposed.

The property owner, John Waterman, still has to overcome numerous obstacles before ground can be broken. He presented his project to the Southampton Town Planning Board last Thursday, April 17.

Though Mr. Waterman has not yet filed a formal application with the town, the Planning Board has had a difficult time understanding just what type of facility he is proposing, an issue that was discussed during several recent work sessions.

New York State only adopted a licensing procedure and guidelines for assisted living facilities on March 28 of this year. Mr. Waterman explained that several delays created by the assisted living industry over concerns about the licensing procedures for such facilities had kept the state from passing the State Assisted Living Reform Act of 2004 until this year.

The proposed facility will focus less on health care and “more on amenities and quality of life,” Vince Liaguno, the administrator of the Westhampton Care Center, told Planning Board members during last week’s meeting.

He said the applicants have a “tremendous focus” on operating a community center with dining options and public spaces, including an auditorium, ice cream parlor and coffee shop. The proposed amenities will allow senior citizens living at the facility to spend quality time with family and friends at the center.

The proposed facility will not be able to accommodate many seniors who are without the means to support themselves financially unless they have long-term care insurance. Facility residents will have access to the doctors working at the neighboring facility and can receive aid from nurses and caregivers who are not affiliated with the nursing home.

Organizers have not yet disclosed how much it would cost to live at the facility.

Mr. Liaguno noted that the proposed facility will be designed for a “very savvy generation” of senior citizens who, although they can still take care of themselves, choose to move into an assisted living facility. He said this new facility would be unique in allowing seniors to make an easy transition to an environment where they need more care right next door.

The town code still does not have a definition for “assisted living” facilities, an issue that could lengthen the application process. Mr. Waterman will also need to secure an area variance from the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals in order to build a facility of this size.

Planning Board member Jacqui Lofaro said this week that she would like to see the building’s design incorporate environmentally friendly elements. Other members have raised concerns about such a facility further taxing local volunteer ambulance companies.

Mr. Liaguno said that, by contracting with private ambulance companies, the center will be able to reduce its dependence on volunteer services in the event of an emergency. He said that such a scheme already works well at the nursing home next door.

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