Morning Read: War veteran treatment center faces opposition in Saranac Lake neighborhood

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise is wrestling with news that neighbors of the St. Joseph’s Rehabilitation Center in Saranac Lake are opposing plans to expand the treatment facility so that it can accommodate struggling veterans home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

St. Joe’s wants to build a new dormitory near their current facility and it turns out the addition would require a zoning change, one that many local residents — including two former Adirondack Park Agency employees — hope to block.

In Chris Knight’s story on the case, former APA staffer Mark Sengenberger expresses concern about the kinds of issues that the veterans would be treated for.

“We have no knowledge whatsoever, nor has there been any public explanation of the degree of impairment or PTSD that these folks would have,” Sengenberger said.

“As a general concern, sure, but one assumes St. Joe’s would have programs and practices in place to deal with the kinds of clients they would be bringing in.”

The larger issue appears to be anxiety that a large dormitory-like structure could erode the quality of life and property values in the neighborhood.  But in an editorial on Monday, the Enterprise chided the neighbors for their stance:

We have known and admired these individuals for many years, but they should back down on this one.

St. Joe’s has been there since before their houses were built, so they already have people with addiction problems in their neighborhood. These neighbors don’t have much to worry about now, and the veterans facility won’t change that. Their property values shouldn’t be affected in any meaningful way.

And any comprehensive plan that doesn’t allow a facility needed this badly should be changed…these neighbors should step out of the way.

If they can’t be happy to have this treatment center because it’s noble, we hope they can accept it because it’s necessary.

So what do you think?  PTSD, substance abuse and suicide have emerged as major issues for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Would you welcome a facility like this in your neighborhood?

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21 Comments on “Morning Read: War veteran treatment center faces opposition in Saranac Lake neighborhood”

  1. Mervel says:

    I understand concerns about maintaining property values.

    However as the article states, St. Joseph’s is already there, is already treating a host of conditions such as addiction. I don’t think the opposition is warranted.

    I do think it shows a building bias in our society against Iraq and Afghanistan war vets as somehow particularly damaged, dangerous and unstable, it is one of the reasons given that they are having so much trouble finding employment.

  2. Jim Bullard says:

    Vietnam vets ran into the same thing. There were reports of drug abuse among vets and we all, even those who didn’t serve in theater, were frequently assumed by employers to be druggies.

  3. Not in my back yard! says:

    How ironic that Mark Sengenberger, the man who pushed his APA staff to deem the ACR permit as complete, despite the fact there was no wildlife assessment and didn’t even list a single amphibian as occurring on the site. The man who under questioning by the ADK Councils attorney stated he didn’t think fragmentation was an “importatant” consideration for the commisioners. This man who emphised the positive financial impacts of the ACR over environmental concerns, now takes umbrage with a project that would have great sociological impacts to the service men who have given so much to this country! HYPOCRISY! What a misguided, self consumed man. Shame on you. You wonder why people questioned your leadership at the APA! Which great camp lot did Mr Foxman deed to you?

  4. wakeup says:

    Stay Patriotic All America City. smh

  5. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I can’t speak for all the county residents, but I suspect we’d love such a treatment center in Lewis County. Right above Lewis County General (with its new state of the art therapy dept.) and adjacent to Mountain View Prevention services in Lowville. And our newly privatized Mental Health organization would surely get on board along with the Community Services board. And given our close proximity to Fort Drum, it’s makes for a more centralized location. A win-win for everyone as far as I can see…..

  6. Mark Sengenberger says:

    It is unfortunate that Peter Crowley’s editorial in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Brian Mann’s NCPR report both misrepresented my position and those of my immediate neighbors concerning the proposed Veteran’s Dormitory in order to create a sensationalized story. For the record, I and my immediate neighbors have publicly and unequivocally supported the construction of the proposed Veteran’s Dormitory on the 24-acre parcel owned by St Joseph’s that is currently zoned Institutional.

    I have submitted two formal letters to the Village of Saranac Lake Planning Board and Village Board clearly stating my support for the Veterans Dormitory project. To suggest otherwise is false. I have also stated my opposition to the rezoning of a 3-acre parcel that is currently zoned Residential because St. Joseph’s has sufficient room on their existing campus that is zoned Institutional to build the Dormitory and avoid the negative impact on adjoining residential properties. We have and will continue to work with St. Joseph’s to find a “win-win” solution that will both protect our homes and allow construction of this important project in an alternate location. Trying to portray this as “neighbors-against-veterans” is factually wrong and is a disservice to all.

    Mr. Mann’s selective decision to focus on the alleged potential safety concern is also misleading. I and other adjacent neighbors gave very specific reasons why construction of the Dormitory on the parcel to be rezoned would adversely affect our residential properties. The least of our concerns was safety. If the Dormitory is constructed on St. Joseph’s main campus or on the adjacent 3-acre site they wish to have rezoned, legitimate safety concerns will still be there. However, we are confident St. Joseph’s would appropriately address safety regardless of where the Dormitory is constructed.

    I also believe that Mr. Mann unnecessarily brought my past APA employment into the article, knowing that the APA bashers would be energized as seen in some of the written comments following his report. For the record, I was retired and had no participation whatsoever in the multi-month, very public process that the APA Board conducted in deciding the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) project. It is my understanding that the Agency’s decision was based solely on a voluminous written public record which contained the positions of persons both supporting and opposing the project.

    My past APA employment and the ACR project are irrelevant to my activities as a homeowner who is concerned with the St. Joseph’s rezoning request. As a Village taxpayer I have every right to participate in the public process related to that rezoning decision.

  7. Paul says:

    I think that Mr. Sengenberger’s position is more than reasonable. There is plenty of space there to do what they want to do I don’t see any need for re-zoning??? What am I missing. His position at the APA is totally irrelevant. I don’t know why Brian would even mention it? Why single him out?

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Mark –

    If I read Chris Knight’s article correctly, you were asked about safety concerns and gave the quote that I cited above.

    Unless you feel that you were misquoted, I simply shared your own views on the matter.

    You write here again that “the least of our concerns is safety,” implying that you do have some lingering questions about that issue.

    Like it or not, that’s a noteworthy and newsworthy thing in this context.

    But I also wrote the following in my blog post:

    “The larger issue appears to be anxiety that a large dormitory-like structure could erode the quality of life and property values in the neighborhood.”

    Regarding your past role as an APA staff member, your concern and objection is a fair and valid one.

    Is it appropriate to mention in the context of a story (or blog post) like this that a person involved in the case is (or was very recently) a public official?

    Generally speaking in cases like this, I err on the side of providing more information, not less.

    I will note that Knight’s Enterprise article also thought your APA connection worthy of mention.

    So — not a black-and-white journalistic decision, but also certainly not motivated by the reasons you suggest.

    –Brian, NCPR

  9. not in my backtard! says:

    Mr Sengenberger,
    It is interesting that in your responsive post to my accusations, you state that you had no role on the commisioners decision to approve the ACR project, “stating For the record, I was retired and had no participation whatsoever in the multi-month, very public process that the APA Board conducted in deciding the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) project.”

    However, as Deputy director for regulatory programs you were the supervisor for APA staff reviewing the application and advising the applicant on the status of his permit. You deemed a very deficient application complete in order to assist the applicant, while clealry, it was lacking information. At various times during the adjudicatory hearing you were on the stand with your former employees, Ms. Paker and Mr. Spada. It seemed incredible to me that no one objected to this obvious suppresion of free testimony by your subordinates. How could they possibly feel free to testify while on the stand with their former supervisor? Not only that, you personally removed other individuals from testifying on behalf of the APA.

    Mr. Sengenberger stated at the October 2009 monthly meeting that “this has been a dream job. It has been a special experience for me. I learned very early the fragile nature of the (Adirondack) economy.”

    While in the case of the St. Joes dormitory you seem perfectly capable of determing their needs for them, stating, ” St. Joseph’s has sufficient room on their existing campus that is zoned Institutional to build the Dormitory and avoid the negative impact on adjoining residential properties.”

    While sitting at the village meeting listening to you, and your wife, I was so struck, is this the same man I listened to in Ray Brook? How can you not expect the contradiction of Mark Sengenberger, acting excutive director of the APA versus Mark Sengenberger, private citizen, who doesn’t want this development in “his back yard” to be reported on?

    How can you in good faith as a former regulator who championed balancing the economy with the environment object to a development that would benefit those who have sacraficed so much. Shame on you!

  10. Paul says:

    “Is it appropriate to mention in the context of a story (or blog post) like this that a person involved in the case is (or was very recently) a public official?”

    Why would it be? Help me out.

    “How can you in good faith as a former regulator who championed balancing the economy with the environment object to a development that would benefit those who have sacraficed so much. Shame on you!”

    NIMBY, easy. First of all it was not his job to “balance the economy with the environment”. It is the “job” of the APA act as approved by the legislature to accomplish that. The agency is there to administer the act not to perform some kind of balancing act as you describe. Administration the act is what they did in regard to the ACR project. If we have a problem with that decision it is a problem with the law and not that folks that are administering it (as long as the followed the law and it appears that they did).

    Now this matter regards a zoning change not simply building something that the property is already zoned for. To get a zoning change you have to show that there is really no other better alternative. It looks like there may be. Now you make it sound like the folks opposed to the zoning change are some how unpatriotic? You have gone way overboard here.

  11. Kool Cal says:

    Yes, very true. He was just doing his job at the APA. unpatriotic, yes, that probably fits also.

  12. Steve Erman says:

    I think some of the writers on this blog should take a long, deep breath and carefully consider what they are saying before questioning anyone’s patriotism over a local zoning matter of very legitimate concern to the neighborhood. The Kiwassa Road residential neighbors have real concerns about the site proposed for this project which is both inconsistent with the Village’s Comprehensive Plan and the current zoning. These concerns were carefully stated at the last meeting of the Village Planning Board and in written correspondence to the Village. At that meeting, the neighbors also expressed their strong support for the project in a location on the main campus of St. Joes, just up the hill, that is appropriately zoned. There is a lot at stake in the siting issue for the neighbors, for St. Joes, for the Village of Saranac Lake as a whole and for the veterans who will benefit from this important project. It is not a time to be throwing darts at individuals or institutions, or for reckless chatter by nameless people on this blog. It is a time for St. Joes, the neighbors and Village leaders to collectively “roll up our sleeves” and figure out how to make this a “win-win.” A constructive dialogue and better project planning is important at this point. So is civility in the discourse. I am more than a little surprised at NCPR for tolerating the comments questioning anyone’s patriotism in this matter.

  13. admin says:

    Steve Erman says “I am more than a little surprised at NCPR for tolerating the comments questioning anyone’s patriotism in this matter.”

    NCPR’s comment policy prohibits use of obscene language (as determined by FCC broadcast guidelines), statements that may be libelous or otherwise legally actionable (so-and-so is a perjurer), and comments that consist solely of ad hominem attacks (So-and-so is ugly and his mother dresses him funny). Beyond that, commenters are free to be uncharitable in responding to the actions and remarks of others, within the context of the current conversation. NCPR is here to provide a platform for discussion, not to determine which criticisms of whom are justified or not.

    That being said, questioning the patriotism of others is a chump’s game–being impossible to either demonstrate or refute, and is most commonly used to shut down, not to advance, a discussion. It is not a deletable offense; but it does bring out my frowny face :-(

    Dale Hobson, web manager, NCPR

  14. Steve Erman says:

    Dale and company – -

    In the “Leave a Reply” box, it says a name is required. It would improve this site greatly if commenters actually used their real, full names. Isn’t that what one should expect from a high quality platform for discussion?

  15. semhp says:

    I am disappointed that a private citizen, Mr. Sengenberger, must be identified by his former employment (APA) in the text of this article (and the referenced article) prefacing his views. Do you always identify any employers of of people commenting on an issue? Is a person who works for any business or organization, controversial or not, entitled to have opinions and concerns as a “regular” citizen with thoughts and ideas independent of his or her employer (and in this case, former employer)? You are discouraging thoughtful, intelligent people from getting involved and having reasonable input because of the mindset tying them to a particular organization. In this case, what this has done is bring a whole separate debate (that of ACR) into the mix that does not belong here. The blind assumption that a workplace defines a person and motivates them in all aspects of their lives is unfair and detracts from the relevant conversation. So, in response to Brian Mann’s question, “Is it appropriate to mention in the context of a story (or blog post) like this that a person involved in the case is (or was very recently) a public official?”, I say the answer is no, because it is not relevant to the issue.

  16. semhp says:

    I also note that I would like to have commented on the original Chris Knight story, noting that the Arlans’ employment status was not mentioned and otherwise expressing the same concerns as stated above, however there was no comment option available.

  17. Peter Hahn says:

    This is a case where the reporting hasn’t been very clear interns of summarizing the issues. The residents don’t object to the new facility, they object to the specific location because it will change the (residential) character of their homes and neighborhood. St. Joes wants to build in that location because it is cheaper than the alternative, but the property is presently zoned residential.

  18. Two Cents says:

    instead of getting bent out of shape about the rezoning, can’t special conditions be imposed on that perticular section of the parcel? contingent on any future sale, or change of use?
    get creative dammitt !

  19. Kool Cal says:

    I don’t think that post is from the REAL Steve Erman.

  20. wakeup says:

    Steve don’t get so bent out of shape. People are entitled to their opinions and to remain anonymous. You are leaving people out of the discussion if you make them use their name. For instance, you would not be using your name and commenting if you were still with the APA. It’s a fact. Your comments would not be liked by the agency.

  21. Kool Cal says:

    Steve could certainly relate to that. Or if you were with DOT…

Comments are closed.