Opinion / Barry Levinson
The Planning and Zoning Commission of New Canaan is having a hard time deciding on the expansionism of Silver Hill Hospital into the surrounding neighborhood along Valley Road. There is a term that is used, "institutional creep," but somehow that is not obvious to some of the commission members.
Ira Bloom, the town lawyer, who lives in Westport, says the neighbors statements are considered emotional and must have factual data to back up their concerns. Of course some neighbors are emotional; they are watching their once quiet neighborhood systematically being taken over by Silver Hill Hospital expansionism.
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To be clear, this is not simply adding buildings to their existing property, this is expansion throughout the neighborhood, or as Silver Hill refers to it as half-way houses. Half-way houses next to residential homes. So far they have purchased two additional properties and were rejected on a third. What is truly remarkable is what has not been said. Never has Silver Hill offered any evidence or argument whatsoever as to why it "needs" this house conversion. The reason for the silence? It is plain that there are plenty of opportunities to get eight new beds within the existing footprint.
Of course the neighbors are emotional. The tranquility of the neighborhood is being transformed from a quiet, peaceful, almost serene neighborhood, into a busy street dotted with half-way houses to treat patients with various mental issues.
But the neighbors' emotions are backed up by facts as well. They have stated the amount of ambulance and police calls to Silver Hill, 152 times in 2012. They have stated how the neighborhood was in a police lockdown when a patient escaped from the hospital. And, the time a naked man, a patient, wandered across a neighbor's lawn. These are facts. These facts were disregarded as "cuckoo nest stories" by the supporters of Silver Hill expansion.
The neighbors presented an expert on home values who testified resale values would be lower with Silver Hill expansion. He said, "The neighborhood was protected for 25 years from hospital expansion by a 1986 settlement agreement," he then stated, "approval of this expansion ... will, in our opinion, ... increase uncertainty among potential buyers ... This, in turn, will have a negative impact on property values." This piece of information somehow was lost or forgotten or overlooked.
In recent weeks, a Silver Hill patient was found along the side of the road covered in leaves. She said she was in Special Ops. A woman was also recently found masturbating in her car on the side of Valley Road by the police.
The true reality is these incidents continually occur, they are not one-off situations. The reality is patients do wander off the hospital grounds. And now the neighbors are faced with further expansion? More patients? Of course the neighbors are emotional, but they DO have facts on their side.
Resident, Valley Road