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december 4, 2015


Trustees listened to the loudest voices, not best

It would be easy for the Inquirer to do the sensational thing and suggest the decision by the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees to challenge the use of the house at 2 Morris Lane as a treatment facility for adolescent girls with eating disorders is, in some ham-fisted way, akin to some Americans wanting to bar Syrian refugees from our shores based on what might happen, no matter how much they’re vetted.

That would be easy. And cheap.

What might not be so easy is the suggestion, which the Inquirer will make, that the loudest voices on a given issue are not always — in fact, are often not — the correct ones.

What happened Nov. 24 in Rutherford Hall would appear to be a vote by the board to succumb to the unfounded, and often unrelated, fears of some passionate members of the community, who may not have been in possession of, or may not have cared all that much about, all the facts surrounding Malibu-based Monte Nido’s proposed treatment facility at 2 Morris Lane.

Ostensibly, the board met that night — in the form of its Law and Land Use committees — to hear both sides of the story, the community’s and the for-profit company’s, with the understanding there was little the governing body could do under New York State’s 37-year-old Padavan law.

The Padavan law, named for former Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan, allows mental health facilities with 14 or fewer beds to exist in residential areas without a zoning variance from the local municipality so long as they meet state standards. Under Padavan, the facility in question must notify the municipality of its intentions, and the municipality then has 40 days to approve the facility, either through action or inaction, or oppose it. If it opposes the facility, the municipality can only do so by suggesting an alternative site for the facility within its borders or by stating the addition of the new mental health facility would create such a saturation of such facilities in the area it would substantially alter the character of that area.

Padavan does not address drug addicts. They were discussed Nov. 24.

Padavan does not address for-profit enterprise. That was discussed Nov. 24.

Padavan does not address property values of the houses surrounding a treatment facility for adolescent girls with eating disorders. That was discussed Nov. 24.

Padavan does not address the width of the driveway at 2 Morris Lane. That was discussed Nov. 24.

Padavan does not address questioning the character of Monte Nido’s principals. Despite no compelling evidence to do so as yet, that was discussed Nov. 24, too.

In the end, the board voted 6-0 — Trustee William Stern was absent — to oppose the Monte Nido facility on the grounds its placement in the village would over-saturate the area and change, presumably, the entire village’s character, as Mayor Jon Mark announced the village will not suggest an alternative Scarsdale site for the treatment center.

Why doesn’t Monte Nido just go to White Plains, one village resident suggested, apparently ignoring the environmental requirements a residential group home for teen girls needs to be in any way effective.

And that brings the Inquirer to its point.

Eight teenage girls, three months at a time, would be housed in a place perfectly suited — according to the company paying $3.5 million for a place to treat them — to what they would need to get better, conquer their crippling problems and set about living the rest of their lives.

Eight girls, even if it would ever be just eight, with a bigger, brighter, better chance at life than when they came in to Monte Nido’s facility.

All because Scarsdale welcomed them.

But Scarsdale hasn’t. And, if the board of trustees, fueled by the not-in-my-backyard fears of a few — or even of many — has its way, those eight girls, and all the others who would follow them, will have to go elsewhere, perhaps a far-distant elsewhere, to get the treatment and the chance Scarsdale could have given them.

Perhaps the village needs a few more loud voices.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of The Scarsdale Inquirer. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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