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Town considers zoning change for youth facility

Christine Robertello, CEO and co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center of Chatham, NJ, is pictured with attorney Jay Zeiger, left, and staff counselor Jason Rovetto, as Robertello fielded audience questions at the January 14 Highland Town Board meeting.
TRR photo by David Hulse

By David Hulse
January 22, 2014

ELDRED, NY — Residents had lots of questions on January 14, but voiced no objections to the CEO of a New Jersey youth counseling facility that is seeking zoning approval to open a new summer program in Highland.

Christine Robertello said the Stepping Forward Counseling Center works with children eight to 12 years of age. The program treats anxiety, depression, addictions, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, Aspergers, bi-polar, and other emotional and mental disorders.

The facility, which is planned for the former Sokol property on Mail Road, will “most likely” not be operated year round.

A planned summer program is expected to serve some 50 children with a supervision ratio of two or three children per staff member. Robertello said students are supervised 24/7 and would never leave the property other than for a supervised group function.

Stepping Forward is a for-profit organization, which will have its own on-site medical staff.

Robertello, who said she has been a provider in this field for 20 years, currently operates the program from space in a Chatham, NJ office building. Robertello owns the business, along with California residents Peony Chua and Anthony Cupo.

She invited anyone interested to visit the company’s website for more information.

The town planning board earlier this month recommended zoning changes that would separately allow a community residence facility serving up to 150 residents to operate on a minimum of 25 acres; and amend the zoning bulk regulations to include a community residence facility in the R-2 zoning district, upon a 25-acre site, upon planning board approval of a special use permit.

Residents will have another opportunity for questions about the project at a town board public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. on February 11, prior to the regular monthly town board meeting.

Supervisor Andrew Boyar again noted that the town board is taking neither an advocacy, nor an adversarial position on the project.

In other business, Terry Robinson was selected from among 10 candidates interviewed for the town’s vacancy in the part-time code enforcement officer’s clerk and bookkeeper trainee position; and the board approved the February 15 to 16 use of the senior/community center for an energy efficiency “Climate Smart” symposium. The symposium is the next event in the two-year-long Weather Project, sponsored by the North American Cultural Laboratory (NACL) in Highland Lake.