Tags Posts tagged with "Development"

Development

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Protesters in Port Jefferson Station object to a potential cell tower along Canal Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The residents who live surrounding the Terryville Fire Department Station 3 on Canal Road can already picture it in their heads — a metal tower rising to the sky, an eyesore for all to see. It’s a project that Port Jefferson Station resident and protest organizer Teresa Mantione said was going to tank their property values.

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic President Sal Pitti protests a potential cell tower along Canal Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

“They have the reason it’s their property, but we live all around here,” Mantione said. “It’s all about money. They are going to get a lot of money for this project.”

Multiple residents whose homes surround the Canal Road fire station said they thought a cell tower would be an eyesore, and they feared their property values would be dramatically reduced if the tower is constructed.

James Rant, a commissioner for Terryville Fire District, said the cell tower has so far been tabled, and the district is not even sure if they will make any more headway on the project. Otherwise, he said the district was looking to help all residents in the district, as a lease agreement for a cell tower could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for the district over several years.

“This wouldn’t be paid for by the district, but the cell providers,” Rant added. “This was explored as a means of bringing revenue into the district.”

Andy Ram, who lives directly across the street from the firehouse, said he would be looking at it every day as he walks onto his lawn.

“There was no consultation,” Ram said. “We pay taxes here, and this is the first time I learned about this.”

Protesters also claimed the fire district has not been upfront in informing the community about their decision. 

Bill Freda points to where the cell tower would be located, saying he would see it from his backyard. Photo by Kyle Barr

The fire district had included a legal notice in the March 16, 2017, edition of the Port Times Record on proposals for a cell tower on Canal Road and Jayne Boulevard, though recent news has been quiet on any new cell towers. However, even with the legal notice, residents said they had little news by the fire department online or in other print forms.

Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, joined in the protest saying he felt the fire department did not do enough to reach out to the community. He added the department had neither presented nor talked to civic leaders about the project.

“They could have easily gone through so many other routes to let members know this was going on,” Pitti said. 

Bill Freda, a 16-year volunteer and former captain in the fire department, has a backyard that looks at the surrounding trees to the rear of the fire station property. Later in the year, when the leaves fall from the trees, he fears he will have a front-row view of the new cell tower.

He said volunteers in the department had little to no knowledge of the new cell tower, and he fears the tower will directly impact his and neighboring property values.

“I’m taking a huge hit on this — this wipes out my investment,” he said. “I wish they could put this somewhere else or rent space on another tower.”

Protesters in Port Jefferson Station object to a potential cell tower along Canal Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Rant said he was skeptical that a new cell tower would hurt local property values. Though he lives next to the Lawrence Aviation superfund site, he said he has seen very little impact on the price of his home.

Protesters point to studies such as a 2014 survey by Washington, D.C.-based National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy which said 94 percent of those respondents said cell towers would impact interest in a nearby property.

In addition to the protest, more than 150 people have signed an online Change.org petition saying they don’t want a cell tower at the fire station.

“They did not follow proper procedure and laws,” Port Jefferson Station resident Jim Hall wrote on the site. “Do not want this in my neighborhood. It’s a money grab.”

This post has been amended to change Bill Freda status to ex-captain in the fire department.

Watermill Catering Hall requests special exception to allow a new four-story hotel. Photo from the Town of Smithtown

The Smithtown Town Board will hear at its May 23 meeting a request for special exception to allow the construction of a 130-room hotel at the Watermill Caterers’ catering hall on the southeast corner of Route 347 and Terry Road.

The site is currently zoned for industrial and neighborhood business and will need to be granted the special permission for a hotel, according to Allyson Murray, principal planner in the town’s Planning Department.

The project’s size, height, parking and traffic are issues that board members will evaluate.

Ultimately, the board will either approve or deny the project, or ask the applicant to modify the plans. But the Planning Department expects the meeting to be a hearing, where the public speaks.

“Residents can rest assured that the Town Board has been working closely with our Planning Department on this prospective plan,” town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “We’ll be meeting with the attorneys for the project Friday, May 17, to go over the proposal that was submitted for the project.”

Watermill and the new hotel is owned by Anthony Scotto Restaurants, the same organization that runs Insignia restaurant in Smithtown and Blackstone Steakhouse in Melville, among other high-end hospitality and food service establishments. 

The proposal will allow its catering hall guests, which are often out-of-town wedding guests, the option to spend the night there.

Nicole Garguilo, the town’s press officer said that the hotel idea could potentially become a benefit to local businesses and turn into significant tax revenue for the community.

Donald King, lawyer for the proposed hotel from Kings Park, said that he is happy to meet with residents and experts in the nearby communities, if necessary, to answer their questions. 

The applicant submitted site plans in November 2018 following a Planning Board review in April 2018. The board found the application to be out of compliance with a range of standards.

“Before the plan is approved, the project would need to comply with all standards,” Murray said. “Or else the applicant could request Zoning Board Appeals approval.”

The Town Board will not be able to approve the plan on May 23, because no State Environmental Quality Review Act analysis has yet been conducted, Murray added.

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A rendering of the proposed development in Mount Sinai. Image from Steven Losquadro

With the sounds of senior living facilities construction echoing up and down Route 25A, another developer has one more project coming down the pipeline for Mount Sinai, this time for a facility geared toward millennials.

The proposed development, Mount Sinai Meadows, will be a 30-acre mixed-use majority rental and part commercial facility geared toward creating a living space for young adults and young professionals.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steven Losquadro, who is representing the developer. 

Representatives of the site’s developer Mount Sinai Meadows LLC, headed by Woodmere-based real estate developer Basser-Kaufman, attended a Town of Brookhaven board meeting March 14 seeking a change of zoning from J-Business 2 to Planned Development District along with approval of the draft environmental impact study. No final decision was made on the property, and the board confirmed it would leave the proposal open for another 30 days to allow for additional comments.

“We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

— Ann Becker

In terms of amenities, the site plans to have bike racks, walkable grounds, communal barbecue areas, electric car charging stations, a large open lawn for the use of residents and four spaces toward the northern end of the property that will be used for large retail spaces. There will be 21.78 acres used for residential housing, while 8.3 acres will be retail. 

The project looks to include 140 housing units, including 106 two-bedroom apartments and 34 one-bedroom apartments. Losquadro said none of the apartments will be subsidized housing.

Engineer Charles Voorhis, a partner of the Melville-based firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis LLC, said the project includes a 170-foot buffer, incorporating a 40-foot natural buffer between the site and the surrounding woods and residential communities to the south and west of the planned development.

The Mount Sinai Civic Association president Ann Becker said approximately 20 percent of the housing stock in the hamlet is for those 55 and older. She said the developer has offered assurances that the development is not expected to bring in an overwhelming number of children into the Mount Sinai School District.

“We have worked with the developers and have been provided with assurances that the number of children … will not burden our community,” Becker said. “We felt it was very important for us to broaden our offerings of housing.”

A number of residents on Mount Sinai Facebook groups were concerned about the traffic impact these new developments could have. The developer’s representatives did not rule out a potential increase in traffic.

Maureen Bond, the communications director of the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, said she also supports the project.

“In my opinion, this is the best plan so far,” she said. “There are traffic issues that need to be addressed; however, I believe having traffic is better than having no traffic.”

The civic has been supportive of the development for years, helping to shape its identity into the millennial housing proposal. One of its most recent requests for the development was to ensure the developer would not seek and would not be given any financial assistance or tax aid from the town, especially any help from the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. Two senior developments at the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A, one an assisted living facility, had recently been given a generous 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement, and though the civic had been supportive of that project, it was heavily against the loss of taxes from the PILOT.

“For people in the ages of 20 to 34, an increasing subset of the population here on Long Island, there is not appropriate housing or opportunities for such individuals who wish to stay here.”

— Steve Losquadro

The Mount Sinai Meadows project has been in the works for several years. Anthony Graves, Brookhaven town’s chief environmental analyst, said he had talked to Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) in 2012 about creating a “true town center” for each of the communities in Council District 2 along Route 25A. A prior project for the site was originally proposed by a different developer specifically for J-2 business zoning, Voorhis said. That project included 805 square feet of retail, 37,000 square feet of office and a 2,000-square-foot bank.

Representatives of the developer said there was no final decision on the expected price on the rentals, but Losqaudro said they have promised the civic it will be at market rate.

Voorhis added the developer is currently in talks with the owner of the neighboring strip mall to allow access between the two retail centers. The developer is also in talks about acquiring the neighboring music store property and incorporating it.

Graves said the town was interested in the PDD zoning because it could more accurately reflect the mixed-use nature of the proposed development.

“[We] believe this development is in the spirit of that original efforts we made in Mount Sinai,” the environmental analyst said. “We look at it as a true town center for Mount Sinai.”

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Planned changes to area around Barnum Avenue and Route 25A. Photo from PJ planning department

Port Jefferson village has long been dealing with issues of parking and attracting more people into the downtown, but proposals put forward by village officials and other property owners have received stern opposition from residents living close to these proposed projects.

The upstairs meeting room in the Port Jefferson Village Hall was packed March 14 as residents came out to get answers on several major developments coming to Port Jefferson. One details the planned development for a mixed-use apartment and retail space in the building that is currently Cappy’s Carpets, while another includes a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue.

The Port Jefferson planning board was originally allowing additional comments from residents until March 24, but they agreed to extend that until March 29 for the planned Cappy’s development.

Apartments in Cappy’s Carpets

Several Port Jeff residents said the Shipyard apartment complex, which only started receiving tenants little more than a year ago, left a bad taste in their mouths. Many who spoke at the March 14 meeting decried the Tritec Real Estate Company’s four-story 112-unit rental complex, and asked that if development were to continue, then they should learn from the last development.

The Capobianco family, which owns the property, along with real estate firm Brooks Partners LLC unveiled plans in February for creating a three-story apartment and retail space in the current Cappy’s Carpet shop at 440 Main St. The development would replace the existing carpet store along with the boat storage lot to the rear of the property.

The proposed plans call for 1,200 square feet of retail space, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant and a 750-square-foot fitness center on the ground floor. Above that would be 44 one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. Also included was a roof deck and rooftop fire pits. Village Mayor Margot Garant previously said the building had remained at three stories in direct response to criticism over the Shipyard development.

Left: Cappy’s Carpets in Port Jefferson; right: rendering of new mixed use space. Left photo by Kyle Barr, right photo from Port Jeff planning department

In terms of parking, the project would include 78 spaces, with the 37 set in a parking garage within the development and 41 spaces outside. The parking spaces would require the developer to pay for four spaces in lieu of parking fees, due to village code parking requirements.

Sayville-based attorney Eric Russo, representing Brooks Partners, said the project would enhance the village’s walkability, especially north of the majority of downtown’s businesses. 

“As part of your village’s master plan, your goal was you wanted to create a walking downtown and expand on the town, so it would move forward where it was on Main Street and continue upward toward this particular area,” Russo said. 

Residents were quick to criticize the idea of a roof deck, saying that people standing up so high would likely be heard throughout parts of the village.

“We live in a bowl here, and if somebody has a roof deck on top of that building, that’s going to travel uphill into our residential area,” said Marge McCuen, resident on Tuthill Street. “I think it was very inconsiderate.”

The development would also go along with new projects to remediate traffic concerns in that area. The New York State Department of Transportation has said it will amend traffic concerns surrounding Barnum Avenue, including removing the triangle median where Barnum and Main Street connect, making one egress and ingress and eliminating the need for pedestrians to make two crossings along one road. The next project is to install a traffic light at the intersection of Old Post Road and Main Street in hopes of eliminating some problems of the accident-prone intersection during rush hour. Patrick Lenihan, an engineer with Hauppauge-based VHB engineering firm, said the state DOT has also recommended removing four street-level parking spaces on Main Street near the expected curb cut for the development.

Resident Michael Mart said removing those four spaces on Main Street would mean the village would be even further in the hole when it comes to parking spaces, not counting the four spaces the developer is willing to pay in lieu of parking for.

As part of the application, Brooks Partners conducted a traffic study with VHB. Results showed the weekday average traffic for Main Street was less than 18,000 vehicles per day in the vicinity of the project site as of March 2016. Saturday and Sunday daily volume during the same week was recorded at less than 20,000 and 15,000 cars, respectively. Some residents criticized the traffic study, especially for the limited time it was conducted, saying it should have also shown traffic patterns for weekdays, especially in mornings when buses take children to school and when cars arrive on the morning ferries.

“With your traffic study, instead of doing just one day in July, you should have done a day in April or May, preferably a weekday, make it when the ferries arrive,” said village resident Drew Biondo. “I think you’d get a better sense.”

“We live in a bowl here, and if somebody has a roof deck on top of that building, that’s going to travel uphill into our residential area.”

— Marge McCuen

Biondo later in the meeting asked if the building would be built on pilings, which the developer responded with yes, on over 200, which would take about three weeks to install during code-allowed times. 

Mart added he hopes this new apartment complex would not get a similar payment in lieu of taxes plan the Shipyard complex received from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. Another $10.8 million planned apartment complex called Overbay, being built by the Hauppauge-based development company, The Northwind Group, has also received an extended PILOT agreement from the Brookhaven town IDA.

“We as taxpayers then have to pay the cost burdens from it,” he said.

At the village’s March 18 board meeting, Garant asked the board to look at the village’s code regarding roof decks, agreeing at the rate in which sound travels within the area. 

Parking lot on Barnum Avenue

Port Jefferson officials are planning for a 44-space parking lot located on the west side along Barnum Avenue just after the turn on Roessner Lane that goes toward Rocketship Park. 

The space currently exists as a gravel lot, and officials have allowed town workers to park in it for the time being. The site was once a house that Garant described as an illegal rental property. Officials agreed to purchase and demolish the building in 2017. 

Plans for the parking lot give it a 53-foot buffer from Barnum Avenue and a 23-foot buffer from Caroline Avenue. These plans also include a new sidewalk with plantings along the edges of the proposed site. The board has stated its intention to eliminate parking along the northern side of Caroline Avenue.

The site of the planned parking lot on Barnum Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Garant said the proposed lot would include a managed parking system with meters but no overnight parking and limits to the number of hours a car is allowed to park in that lot. A gate would be installed to prevent people from parking in the lot overnight. 

Barbara Ransome, the director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said the new parking was desperately needed. 

“We really haven’t had a new parking lot in downtown in 50 years,” Ransome said. “From the business perspective we really do support the additional 44 parking spots.”

The mayor added the plans for lighting include goosenecked, directional lighting that would focus their rays on the parking lot itself, and they would be automated to turn off at midnight.

“We’re very sensitive to the lighting,” Garant said. “The light will not penetrate beyond parking area.”

Despite her attempts at assurances, some residents who would border the proposed lot were not so convinced. Kathleen Loper, who lives on Caroline, said she has already had problems with lighting from the nearby baseball field disturbing her ability and her neighbors to maintain their sleep schedules. 

“People have different work schedules — those lights are very distracting, so I can imagine what the parking lot lights are going to do,” Loper said. “If I wanted to live in Manhattan, I would have bought a house in Manhattan.”

Pat Darling Kiriluk, a Port Jeff resident, said she was concerned about the beautification of that space, especially with the Drowned Meadow House nearby along the same street.

We are never going to have enough [parking] availability,” Kiriluk said. “It’s never ever going to be enough.”

“The light will not penetrate beyond parking area.”

— Margot Garant

Others who live in the area already feel the area is dangerous for pedestrians due to high traffic along Barnum and Caroline. Tony Dutra, who lives at the corner of Caroline and Barnum, asked why the project couldn’t have an entrance off Barnum and an exit on Caroline. Anthony Cucuzzo of D&B Engineers and Architects said they could look at the idea but believed large traffic volumes along both roads would cause delays.

Garant has previously said if the project gets approval, she would want construction to start by fall of this year.

The mayor added the village may be able to enhance the crosswalk features. Other residents feared illicit activity happening in the parking lot at night.

Kevin Wood, village parking administrator, said current parking lots already have surveillance cameras and parking ambassadors, which would be extended to this new parking lot. 

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A longtime Port Jefferson business, Cappy’s Carpets building, may soon triple in size to accommodate new retail space and nearly 50 new apartments.

The Capobianco family, who owns the property, along with real estate firm Brooks Partners LLC, have unveiled plans for creating a three-story, mixed-use building on 1.15 acres of property at 440 Main St. The development will replace the existing carpet store along with the boat storage lot to the rear of the property.

The proposed plans call for 1,200 square feet of retail space, a 1,500-square-foot restaurant and a 750-square-foot fitness center on the ground floor. Above that would be 44 one-bedroom and two, two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. 

Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said she was adamant the new space should have retail on the first floor.

Site plans for new development. Photo from Port Jeff planning department

“We feel very strongly, despite everybody saying ‘Retail is getting killed [and] Amazon is killing small business,’” Garant said. “In providing a space where a small store that is attractive, it makes Main Street a vibrant street for everyone.”

Cappy’s Carpets currently exists on a single-level building, but this development could raise its height to match the surrounding three-story structures. Renderings for the space provided by Hauppauge-based engineering firm VHB show a rustic aesthetic building trying to keep in tune with its neighbors. 

The Port Jeff mayor said original plans for the structure put it at four stories, but the village trustees voted to change the code to restrict its height to 35 feet or 3 stories. She has seen the updated plans and said she appreciates the look of the structure’s facade.

“We learned a lesson when the Shipyard building came in,” Garant said. “We’re trying to maintain our character while allowing these property owners to build within the code … there has to be a careful balance between our very sensitive downtown.”

The westernmost portion of the first floor will consist of surface-level parking. The garage will encompass 37 spaces. The available parking outside the structure will have 41 additional slots and one loading space. The parking would be accessed off Main Street and through an egress on Barnum Avenue. The parking garage and 29 of the outside stalls will be reserved for apartment tenants. Another 12 remaining outside spaces will be available for employees and patrons of the commercial Main Street businesses. 

Cappy’s Carpets owners did not respond to requests for comment.

According to a traffic study conducted by VHB, the weekday average traffic for Main Street was less than 18,000 vehicles per day in the vicinity of the project site as of March 2016. Saturday and Sunday daily volume during the same week was recorded at less than 20,000 and 15,000 cars, respectively. The study does not give the volume of traffic for Barnum Avenue. 

The study states the development would only lead to an increase of 61 new trips during peak a.m. times, 71 new trips in peak p.m. times, and 115 new Saturday midday trips. It concludes by saying the project would not have any major effect on traffic in Port Jefferson village.

Rendering of new development from the Barnum Avenue side. Photo from Port Jeff planning department

Garant said the New York State Department of Transportation has already approved renovations to the three-way intersection between Barnum Avenue and Main Street as well as traffic features south along Main Street. Current plans call for removing the triangle median where the two roads connect, making one egress and ingress, eliminating the need for pedestrians to make two crossings along one road. The next project is to install a traffic light at the intersection of Old Post Road and Main Street in hopes of eliminating some problems of the accident-prone intersection during rush hour. The mayor added she hopes to see these changes in the next year, or at least before any new Cappy’s Carpet development finishes.

“We’re in the last stages of negotiation phases with DOT, but the traffic light is definitely happening,” Garant said. “The changes to Barnum are also something we hope will alleviate some of the problems with pedestrians crossing that intersection.”

The Village of Port Jefferson has released the draft site plans for the site and has them available at the Village Hall, the Port Jefferson Free Library and the Building and Planning Department at 88 North Country Road. As of press time, the site plans are not yet available on the official Port Jefferson Village website.

A public hearing about the proposed development is set for March 14 at 6:30 p.m. Residents can submit comments to the Planning Board until March 24.

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Keith Brown, right, and other representatives display site plans for self-storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are two new developments on the horizon for Port Jefferson Station, tucked away in the backwoods along Sheep Pasture Road. Despite first assumptions, they’re not hotels, restaurants or homes, but self-storage facilities. 

Beyond that, both projects could be located a three-minute drive from each other.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, the Town of Brookhaven board voted unanimously to change the zoning on a parcel located along Sheep Pasture Road, across from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption from B1 Residential to L1 Industrial for the purpose of creating the 87,550-square-foot self-storage facility on the nearly five-acre wooded area.

site plans for the self-storage site at the corner of Sheep Pasture Road and Dark Hollow Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We make our best efforts to balance all of the competing interests and factors and make decisions that take into consideration all concerns.” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. 

Enrico Scarda, founder of The Crest Group, a real estate firm based in Hauppauge that owns the property, said he expects to start building the structure within the next eight months.

“We had huge community outreach, both to the immediate residents and others, we couldn’t really do anything better than this proposal,” Scarda said. 

The development was initially proposed in 2018, but complaints about the structure being close to the road along with its large amount of parking spaces and its industrial-seeming facade made the company and town go back to the drawing board. 

Anthony Graves, the town’s chief environmental analyst, presented designs of the new structure that included an updated rustic facade, a limitation of 35 feet in height and 75 feet of natural buffering between Sheep Pasture Road, Dark Hollow Road and the structure. This pushes the facility back to the northern end of the property, near the LIRR train tracks. The site allows for 44 parking spaces and 41 spaces for the storage of vehicles. Graves and Crest Group’s attorneys said they promised to include solar panels on the roof and have the entrance onto the property come directly across from Harborview Avenue.

“The safest thing to do is not have people living on the site,” Graves said.

The town said they have received letters of approval from the Three Village Civic Association as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.

A number of residents spoke at the meeting, and while some spoke up in favor of the proposal, complementing its setback away from the road and for the convenience it could give some residents and businesses, others spoke their opposition to the development.

Anthony Graves, middle, speaks about projects site plans. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The value of my house is definitely going down because of this thing,” Port Jeff Station resident Richard Rowland said. His property was described as a “stone’s throw” away from the planned storage facility.

Cartright said the town worked hard to account for resident’s complaints.

“Every change that was made to the project was in response to a request or concern raised by constituents,” the councilwoman said.

The Crest Group president said they went ahead with this development instead of homes because of the unique nature of the property. In 2015 the town restricted development at the site as it was once owned by Lawrence Aviation Industries, which dumped harmful chemicals onto the property for years that then leached into the soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Town of Brookhaven, have been working on cleanup efforts. In the meantime, the town promised to restrict certain industrial and residential developments. 

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said self-storage facilities, at least compared to overall development, has relatively little impact in terms of cars, traffic or the environment. 

“It’s the least impactful on traffic,” the supervisor said.

Port Jeff Station resident Jim Fox contested the idea the old Lawrence Aviation property is unavailable for single-family residences
development in the near future. 

“The EPA has said there has been a significant reduction in the plume,” Fox said. “It’s going to be 100 percent drinkable in 10 years.” 

Baylis Avenue self-storage

Another self-storage structure has been proposed to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, one with a much smaller footprint than the one down the road.

This project, which would be located at 16 Baylis Ave., is currently a small set of undeveloped woods and an empty field zoned L1 Industrial sitting next to a pocket of residential homes and apartments.

Designs presented to the civic by Atlanta, Georgia-based developer Talon Inc., show six storage units spaced 30 feet apart, with five being one story and the last being a two-story storage space. Each single-story unit takes up 7,750 square feet and is accessed from the exterior while the two-story has a footprint of 40,500 square feet and will contain an office space as well. 

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said the developers had already talked to the civic and Brookhaven town in summer 2018, but that no moves were made before the Jan. 22 meeting.

Plans for the exterior of the self storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Keith Brown, a zoning attorney from Melville-based Brown & Altman LLP, said they chose the site because of its current zoning, its proximity to the railroad tracks, and the wooded buffer between it and the neighboring Heatherwood House at Port Jefferson apartment complex.

“The site is designed with a 76-feet-deep, contiguous, naturally wooded buffer that will serve as a buffer to the south and a 214-feet buffer to the north, and 48 percent of the site will be landscaped.”

Designs shown at the civic meeting indicate 53 parking spots with another four stalls designated for loading. The road leading up to the facility is currently pockmarked with potholes, and the property at the end of Baylis currently features a small-scale lumber operation. 

Brett Hatcher, senior vice president of investments at Columbus, Ohio-based real estate company Marcus & Millichap, who is working with Talon on the project, said they were already aware of the other self-storage site down the road, but wouldn’t comment on if that facility has changed their plans.

When asked, Scarda said he was unaware of the proposal for Baylis Avenue.

In a letter to the town, the civic relayed its appreciation for the 76-foot buffer and had no other comments on the property.

A scene from Steiner's Woods. Photo from Beth Dimino

By David Luces 

A nearly 30-year fight to protect 10 acres of land known in the Sound Beach community as Steiner’s Woods has finally come to an end. 

On Dec. 20, Town of Brookhaven purchased the land for $5 million, effectively preserving the site as open space. 

“Water has been naturally dumped to these woods, and over the years wildfire and vegetation have developed.”

— Beth Dimino

The stretch of land, situated near Lower Rocky Point Road in Sound Beach, had been owned by Robert Toussie for over 25 years. The Brooklyn-based developer proposed to build up the site as Villages on the Sound, a 15-home development clustered on the northern portion of the property near the bluff, with a single access road extending northward from Lower Rocky Point Road. 

For years, the proposed plans have been marred by environmental and logistical issues raised by town officials and community members. 

Local residents have voiced their concerns the development would have led to more vehicular traffic on existing narrow roads that were already overburdened in the neighborhood. The property also serves as protection for Scott’s Beach, and residents have argued development could have led to negative environmental impacts due to stormwater runoff into the Long Island Sound. 

The woods serve as a natural drainage site and water recharge basin for the surrounding communities, according to an environmental analysis conducted by the town in 1989. If development went through, the town would have spent close to $2 million to mitigate stormwater runoff from Lower Rocky Point Road. 

Sound Beach resident and retired science teacher Beth Dimino, who lives adjacent to the property, is glad the town was able to purchase the site. 

“The woods provide natural drainage in the community,” the Sound Beach resident said. “Water has been naturally dumped to these woods, and over the years wildfire and vegetation have developed.” 

The 1989 environmental report also stated the trees support the environment and also protect the community from winds from hurricanes and rainstorms. 

Dimino said she has to give credit to Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). 

“She understood the problem and understood the concern of the community,” Dimino said. “I told her it would cost millions to mitigate the water drainage issue. We are indebted to her — she has helped save the environment in that area and it’s going to help preserve the wildlife.”

“The community and the civic association have been advocating against development for close to 30 years.”

— Bea Ruberto

Bonner said this has been a long process, one that started before she took office. 

“This is a win for the community and the Town of Brookhaven,” Bonner said. “It’s a beautiful parcel of land and it’s great that it won’t be developed.”

Bonner said her office has received many positive phone calls from residents who are happy with the recent news. 

Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto said the community is elated about the news. 

“I’ve been involved for the past ten years,” she said. “The community and the civic association have been advocating against development for close to 30 years.”

Ruberto said if development went through they would have had to instead fill the ravine, located in the vicinity of Steiner’s Woods, which serves as a drainage point. Filling that would have led to issues of water runoff that normally flows into the area.  

“They would’ve had to mitigate the stormwater and it would’ve cost millions of dollars,” she said.  “If it could be done.”

Bonner points to the advocacy done by local residents and the town as the reason the property was able to be preserved.

“This has been a total group effort,” the councilwoman said. “It’s nice to finally put this to bed.”

Civic leaders Charlie McAteer, Edward Garboski and Sal Pitti discuss local developments. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents may be willing to give a proposed apartment complex a tentative thumbs up, but a new potential fast food restaurant is having its feet put to the fire.

Members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association listened to the developers of several prospective businesses and apartment complexes at a Nov. 27 meeting, one the once-maligned Concern for Independent Living apartment complex off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

The 77-unit complex, slated for north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue across from the Sagamore Hills Condominiums, originally came under fire from residents when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that New York State was setting aside $8.1 million for the project to promote affordable homes, particularly for the homeless.

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said after talking with representatives of the apartment’s developers he realized there was much misinformation about the project. “It was a culmination of nonsense,” Pitti said.

The civic leader said Ralph Fasano, the executive director for Concern for Independent Living, has also been extremely forthcoming and attentive to addressing the community’s concerns.

Fasano said 75 units in the complex will be single bedroom, and only two are two-bedroom, one of which is reserved for the apartment manager. Veterans would get preference when applying for these apartments, and the remainder will be available for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $40,000 to $60,000 a year according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

A majority of the civic voted to write a letter of conditional support to the Town of Brookhaven, with specific requests for the town to compel the developer to work to obtain a traffic light on Route 112, provide as much fencing as possible between adjacent housing, provide a landscaping screen for the adjacent property and preserve open space.

“They seem to be trying to address [those concerns],” Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said.

While the apartment complex received support, a potential Popeyes, to be located on property east of the TD Bank on Nesconset Highway at the corner of Old Town Road, garnered the opposite reaction. The proposal was spurred by residents angry over the amount of existing fast-food restaurants on Route 347 and fears of an increase in traffic.

While the land has not yet been sold,  Jim Tsunis, the CEO of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group, said preliminary designs  call for a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with access from Route 347. Tsunis said they are seeking a change of zoning application to allow for the restaurant use.

Residents were especially concerned about traffic on a road that has already seen its share of accidents. Tsunis said that he doesn’t expect the project to put any more cars on the road, but rather some drivers would decide to pull into the Popeyes rather than visit other existing restaurants further down the highway.

“It’s a balance, not a give and take,” Tsunis said.

Craig Fazio, a lifelong Port Jeff Station resident, said he disagreed with others about the Popeyes, especially since Tsunis still owned the property. Fazio said Tsunis could push to build a 14,000-square-foot medical office complex in that same spot, which he believes would be even worse for traffic.

“If you put health care there, how many doctors will see patients every 15 minutes versus a much smaller restaurant?” Fazio asked.

Tsunis said that he has considered building medical offices and the property is zoned for a two-story office building. 

“I hope we can work together in the future to mitigate some of these points,” he said.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, asked why  Popeyes wasn’t considering building on Route 112, other vacant land or existing empty retail space.

McAteer said he didn’t believe the civic was totally against Popeyes, but it needs to be located on a better and safer site. “We were not saying, ‘We just hate your restaurant, we just want you out.’ Just put it in an area that could use a little boost,” he said.

The civic’s next meeting will be held at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

Craig Turner, Town of Huntington’s principal planner; Matt Suter, a founder of the Save the Village civic group; Emily Rogan, a former Huntington school district trustee; and Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, discuss affordable housing issues in Huntington. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Town of Huntington has made efforts to tackle the lack of affordable housing in the past, but the best method to do so isn’t always clear. Town officials attempted last week to open public channels of communication, as housing legislation proposing additional changes is being put up for public feedback.

That question and more was discussed at a Community Conversation on Housing for All held at the Cinema Arts Centre Nov. 17. Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the issue has only become more apparent with time.

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200,” Lupinacci said. “If you go for living in some of those beautiful new apartments in the village or elsewhere its $2,500.”

“If you look at renting someone’s basement, the average cost is $1,200.” 

— Chad Lupinacci

Huntington has hosted numerous lotteries for affordable housing, including a Sept. 5 lotto for a four-bedroom house in the Harborfields Estates housing complex in Greenlawn for $221,000. The supervisor said more than 800 applicants came out that day hoping their name would be chosen, but of course only one would be so lucky.

The town passed legislation in 2017 that required all new mixed-use developments in C-5 shopping center and C-6 general business zoning to consist of 20 affordable housing units. Yet, a 2018 study conducted by Huntington Township Housing Coalition found there are only 729 units of affordable housing in the township. The town would need 2,798 affordable housing units to meet demand by 2020, according to a 2016 HTHC report that used information from a 2005 Rutgers University study.

“In the private market, supply and demand will dictate what a property will sell for, but it’s important that once a home is built and it is offered as affordable, it stays affordable,” Lupinacci said.

Town officials, local advocacy groups and community members came to the forum in the early morning hours to hear what can be done to address affordable housing issues. The event featured information sessions on
issues of accessory apartments and how housing and apartment developments impact the town from an environmental, parking and community character perspective.

Accessory apartments

Since 1991, Huntington has allowed residents to acquire a permit to partition their households to use them as rental space. While this has allowed for an increase in the number of inexpensive living spaces within the town, it has also faced pushback from neighbors.

Joe Rose, the deputy director of the town’s public safety department, said there are approximately 1,750 accessory apartments spread evenly throughout every hamlet in Huntington. Yet, residents have complained about tenants taking up on-street parking spots in front of neighbor’s homes, as well as fears of illegal or problematic connected apartments.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?'”

— Ed Nitkewicz

“We want to keep the integrity intact as far as single-family dwelling having very minimal impact,” Rose said. “Every single complaint is investigated by code enforcement.”

Ed Nitkewicz, an attorney who serves Huntington as the accessory apartments hearing officer, said residents often come to hearings arguing why these apartments should not exist in their neighborhoods. He frequently hears concerns about potential illegal or problematic rentable spaces. In response, Nitkewicz said most concerns are due to the mystique of these partitioned residences, and many issues can be directly reprimanded by town officials, unlike issues some might have of their regular neighbors’ homes.

“It’s the mystery of the accessory apartment, its ‘Who’s going to be living there, what are the conditions of it?’” Nitkewicz said. “Let’s say the applicant sells their house to the Brady family… And they all have cars — all of them park in the driveway, and you have no control over that. You can’t tell the Bradys to pump their cesspool, you can’t tell the Bradys the numbers on the house are viewable.”

The town board is considering new legislation that would allow residents to live in the smaller partitions of their homes, which would typically become the accessory apartment, and instead rent the majority of the available living space. A public hearing was held Nov. 20 at 7 p.m., after this publication’s press time.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said she was very much in support of such an idea, but accessory apartments only address a small part of the affordable housing issue.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 1.9 square miles. Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

— Matt Suter

“It’s one way to make an impact, but I think it’s easiest to have because we’re talking about existing inventory versus new inventory,” she said.

Impacts of new housing

While most elected officials and advocacy groups agreed there is a problem with a lack of affordable housing, several speakers said one cannot underestimate the environmental and community cost of increased development.

Matt Suter, one of the founders of the Save the Village civic group, has helped circulate a petition requesting that the town restrict allowing developers to build above existing storefronts in Huntington village by adding apartment space on top of existing retail or commercial spaces until a environmental review on the area is completed. He said he fears the increase of hundreds of apartments being built in the village could go on to escalate the already high amount of nitrogen in areas like Huntington Bay, which has led to a rash of dangerous algae blooms during the summer 2018.

“The crux of it is that Huntington village sits atop a watershed that is 9.4 square miles,” Suter said. “Anything you build on the watershed impacts this local ecosystem.”

Huntington’s Department of Planning and Environment is in charge of conducting the town’s State Environmental Quality Review Act surveys on any new developments. Craig Turner, the department’s principal planner, said stormwater and the nitrogen filtration is a problem in Huntington village, these new developments are not having that much of an effect because they are built on already developed sites.

“SEQRA asks us whether there are significant environmental impacts, not if there are any environmental impacts,” Turner said.

When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them.”

— Eric Alexander

One project that was often referred to was the Avalon Huntington Station venture, which started nearly a decade ago. Developer AvalonBay Communities looked to build a large-scale apartment complex as well as change the property’s zoning to Transit Oriented Development. Opponents feared the project would raise taxes and create higher population density.

Emily Rogan, who served 12 years on the Huntington school district’s board of education and was on the board when the Avalon Huntington project was underway, said one of the biggest fear residents expressed was that the project — if it went through as originally proposed — would increase the number of students in an already overflowing school district.

The town board ultimately voted down the initial proposal in favor of a revised version that Rogan said had no impact on the number of children in the district once completed.

“You can’t get stakeholder buy-in unless there is communication all throughout the process,” she said.

Eric Alexander, the director of regional smart growth planning organization Vision Long Island, said there are ways to build residential developments to minimize the impact on both the surrounding community and the environment.

“When the projects are planned with the local community, and there’s real local support, projects get approved, things get built, and people are generally happy with them,” Alexander said.

*This post has been amended to reflect Suter’s groups intentions and actual square miles of the Huntington watershed.

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E.H. Rogers Feed and Grain, circa 1910. Photo from Ken Brady Collection

Revitalization plans between the train tracks and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station have an eye toward the future, but those who have dedicated their lives to the community’s history have a message: not so fast.

Five buildings with historical roots in Port Jefferson Station that fall squarely within the bounds of Town of Brookhaven’s territory slated for redevelopment, as indicated during its planning board’s July 24 presentation during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, could be at risk of being demolished. Two of the buildings, 101 and 105 Main St., adjacent to the south side of the train tracks, could be in more imminent danger, according to Jack Smith, president of Cumsewogue Historical Society, based on a phone call he said he had in March with Charlie Lefkowitz, a real estate developer who owns many of the buildings in the area personally or in part with business associates.

The present day Costigan building, which operates as a law office. Photo by Jack Smith

The buildings, dating from the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, serve as links back to the area’s agricultural roots, according to Smith.

“We worked with the community and town for several years,” Lefkowitz said in a phone interview about the proposed redevelopment as a whole, though he declined to comment specifically on the historical buildings other than to confirm he spoke with Smith in March. “We will continue to work with the community and the town to create the best product and vision for Port Jefferson Station.”

In 2014, the findings of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study commissioned by the town to compile community feedback and detailed analysis from professionals to determine what redevelopment of the area might entail were released to the public. Though the study has no legal bindings, it contains recommendations from Port Jefferson-based architects and consultants for the study, Campani and Schwarting Architects founders Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting, as well as longtime Suffolk County planner Lee Koppelman, calling for the preservation and incorporation of the five buildings into future redevelopment plans.

Smith said Lefkowitz told him the two buildings nearest the train tracks specifically are in a state of disrepair and cannot be preserved, despite the fact that they are occupied by businesses currently. Smith said the developer was willing to preserve relics from the historical structures and even establish a museum to memorialize the history, which Smith called “nonsense” and “insulting.” Schwarting said he disagreed with Lefkowitz’s assertion, relayed to him by Smith during a joint interview July 20.

“They’ve got good bones,” the architect said of the buildings.

Schwarting’s partner Campani said she understood the dilemma developers like Lefkowitz face in situations like these, though she agreed she does not see a case for needing to knock the buildings down rather than refurbishing them and incorporating them into revitalization plans.

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished.”

— Nick Acampora

“Part of the problem, which is one of the things we tried to address in the study, is that it’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area right now, and you sort of have to slow down to a pedestrian pace to start to appreciate these things,” Campani said. “If you’re flying by at 40 miles per hour, you’re not going to.”

Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection and stewardship of historic sites, said the buildings’ location on a state road and proximity to a Long Island Rail Road station would trigger review by New York State as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act prior to demolition, though getting the sites listed on state or national historic registries would go a long way toward securing their protection.

“It doesn’t prevent [demolition], but it does put it on a longer path, and it can bring private owners to the table in a serious way and kind of leverage a little bit of a negotiation,” she said, adding that public support and collaboration between the two historical sites would ultimately serve as strong deterrents against the approval of any plans ultimately necessary from the town’s planning board when a site plan is eventually weighed. Kautz said the organization would support a push to preserve the buildings. “They’re important buildings. The local community will benefit more from a rehab than it would by a total blitz.”

Nick Acampora, president of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, pledged to support Smith in his efforts, even if it comes to “laying down in front of a bulldozer.”

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished,” Acampora said.

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