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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 17, 2011

Does Guilderland need another facility for memory care?

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — An existing facility at Mill Hill for patients with memory loss doesn’t want a new memory-care center built there. Atria asserts there is no need, while Crestmoore says there is.

This conflict dominated a public hearing at Tuesday’s town board meeting.

The hearing was extended to March 1 so the Albany County Planning Board can weigh in.

Crestmoore Community Corporation wants to build a 142-bed assisted living facility, with memory care, as part of Mill Hill’s undeveloped fourth phase.

In 1993, when the Planned Unit Development, or PUD, was issued, the fourth phase was slated to include a 160-bed “skilled nursing care” facility. The town board will decide whether or not to change the law to accommodate Crestmoore’s plans.

Terresa Bakner, attorney and owner of the property, said there is no longer a demand for a nursing home in the area.

“The state doesn’t want more nursing homes,” she said.

The issue was also debated at a town planning board meeting in January, during which the board members voted 5-to-2 to give the town board a positive recommendation for changing the PUD; one of the dissenters, Terry Coburn, said she thought the board should look further into the demand for nursing homes.

At the town board meeting on Tuesday, Atria Guilderland indicated that another assisted living facility in the town would not be viable.

“Data indicates that the market is saturated,” said James Lane, a representative of Atria Senior Living. Atria has three assisted living facilities in the Capital Region, which provide over 170 beds and employ over 140 people; the Guilderland facility is licensed as Life Guidance Memory Care.

“If the Phase 4 application for Mill Hill is granted, the town will be duplicating what is already here, without offering a higher level of care and a wider range of options,” said Lane. He said he believed the original intent of the PUD was for the town to offer a “continuum of care.” A nursing home would provide the next step for individuals needing to move out of assisted living into a facility with greater medical care, he said.

“If Atria had known another assisted living facility would be built, it wouldn’t have made such a substantial investment,” Lane concluded in front of the board on Tuesday.

Stephen Bowman, president of Peregrine Health Management Company, which would manage the new facility in Mill Hill, disagreed with Lane’s assessment of the current market.

“I know the market, I know the area, and I know the need,” Bowman said. Peregrine Health manages over a dozen facilities, including assisted living, nursing and rehabilitation, and memory-care centers, in New York and several other states.

“The state and federal governments are cutting Medicaid like crazy, and we want to create a more dignified, residential environment free from the fetters of Medicaid,” said Bowman. Nursing homes funded by the state accept Medicaid, but private assisted living facilities do not.

“This would be a for-profit facility that pays taxes to the town,” Bakner said.

David Luntz, an attorney representing Atria, said that, the change, if granted, would be contrary to the PUD.

“It undermines the planning process,” said Luntz.

If the local law that established the PUD is changed, it will be the fifth amendment to the law since its inception. In the first Mill Hill phase, a Stewart’s shop was constructed, and the second and third phases will include the development of 74 senior townhouse units.

“The intent of the law is not so inflexible that it is incapable of evolving. The purpose was to provide appropriate assisted living, and that would still be happening,” concluded Bakner. “Competition provides more choices.”

Town Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise yesterday that, despite the arguments from both sides, the board must consider what the best use for the property is.

“The likelihood of a nursing home going in is slim at best considering what is happening with funding in the state and county,” said Runion.

— Jo E. Prout contributed information from the January Guilderland Planning Board meeting

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