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Three Village Civic Association

The community is asking SUNY for a chance to sit at the table in selecting a new president. File photo

With the departure of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. as Stony Brook University president July 31 and the appointment of Michael Bernstein as interim president, the school and the State University of New York have begun the process of finding a new permanent president. Elected officials and community groups have called on SUNY to include local representatives in the search committee and selection process.

Supervisor Ed Romaine during his State of the Town address. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Stony Brook University is one of the crown jewels of the SUNY system,” said Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven supervisor, in an Aug. 26 letter sent to Kristina Johnson, SUNY chancellor. 

Citing SBU as being ranked one of the top 35 public universities in the nation and a major health care provider for the community, Romaine described SBU as “an integral part of our community as an educational resource, employer and economic driver.”

“Because of this, I urge you to include at least two representatives from the community on your search committee for a new university president,” Romaine said.

The supervisor recommended eight different community groups that he felt had qualified individuals that could serve on the search committee.

“The president of the university is a huge part of the community. I believe the community should be invited to the search committee for the new president,” Romaine reiterated in an interview. “We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

The Brookhaven supervisor brought up the issue of off-campus housing, particularly illegal rooming homes, which he acknowledged the school has worked with the town to crack down on landlords.

Romaine brought up traffic, especially the issues on Stony Brook, Oxhead and Nicolls roads.  

“I proposed to the county they consider making three lanes north and south from 347 to the university because that’s where it really jams up,” he said. “… The university is already working with us, but the best way to confirm that is to make sure the local community is represented.”

The Three Village Civic Association also sent Johnson a letter.

“We appreciate the many benefits of being the home community of a large world class university,” the association stated in the letter. “However, with those benefits come many challenges for our small community. We think it would be beneficial for the search committee to include a civic perspective that can help bridge the specific needs of the university with those of the surrounding community.”

“We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

– Ed Romaine

University officials, said in a statement that SUNY board of trustees sets the procedure for the search and determines the mix of committee members. Members of the Stony Brook Council will be included who are also community members.

SUNY Guidelines for Conducting Presidential Searches require that the local college council, the Stony Brook Council, follow a prescribed process and submit names to the SUNY board for consideration.

The search committee would consist of four members of the local council, including the chair, seven members of the full-time teaching faculty of the campus, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, one alumni representative, two campus-related foundation representatives, one academic dean, one professional or support staff member, one incumbent or retired SUNY president from another campus or a member of the chancellor’s senior staff designated by the chancellor.

SBU said members are nominated by faculty, staff and students. The faculty then vote via a secret ballot on the seven faculty positions, and the rest of the positions are selected by the council chair from the list of nominees. 

Nominations for the committee took place over the summer, according to university officials. Voting on faculty representatives began on Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 6. Once the faculty results are in, the council chair, Kevin Law, will finalize his selections and will convene the first search committee meeting. The first meeting will likely be in late September.

SUNY could not be reached for comment before press time.

A rendering of the planned Heatherwood Golf & Villas in South Setauket. Rendering from Town of Brookhaven Planning Board

The proposed apartment complex project on the property of the Heatherwood Golf Course in South Setauket will not receive a tax benefits package after the Brookhaven Industrial Agency rejected a proposal that would cut property taxes on the land by $3.76 million over 13 years at a hearing Aug. 21.

Also included would be $2,854,000 in sales tax exemptions and $420,000 in mortgage recording tax exemptions. In total the developers would see savings of more than $7 million.

The decision proved to be a small victory for some area residents who have been against the project since its inception. They were concerned that the proposed tax breaks could negatively affect local school districts and development would increase traffic congestion at the intersection of Route 347 and Arrowhead Lane.

Representatives for Heatherwood said at the meeting that they could not move forward with development without the tax breaks.

Salvatore Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said the notion of developers abandoning the project was wishful thinking.

“We never wanted it from the beginning,” he said. “The entire community has been against it.”

The proposed project dates back to 2014 when it was brought up to the Town of Brookhaven zoning board and was approved of a crucial zone change that allowed for apartments on the property. As a part of the approval, the town board required the property owner to donate 40 acres of land to the Manorville Farm Protection Area, remove a billboard at the golf course and construct a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane.

“The zone changes already occurred,” Pitti said. “We’ve already accepted the fact that it will be developed [eventually].

“Why do you need tax breaks if you don’t have the money to build it? It came off as them being more greedy.”

–Salvatore Pitti

In 2018, the Planning Board approved the proposed plans for the company to build on nearly 26 acres of its more than 70-acre property. The project, dubbed the Heatherwood Golf & Villas, will be a 200-unit senior apartment complex catering to individuals 55 and over.

The planned project would reduce the 18-hole golf course to nine holes to allow developers to build the apartments and would supposedly bring more revenue to the golf course.

IDA members questioned the reason Heatherwood needed tax breaks to move forward with the project. Heatherwood said that the project would create six permanent full-time jobs, though IDA members said it wasn’t enough jobs to grant it the benefits package.

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee, was shocked when he first heard that Heatherwood was looking for tax breaks.

“I was like ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Mones said. “It wasn’t enough that they got the zoning approval, but now they need tax breaks — at some point enough is enough. It is corporate greed.”

Mones argued that the project would forever affect the surrounding communities.

“It adds to the over development, we lose open space and a golf course,” he said. “…We are happy the IDA turned them down.”

Mones along with Pitti wasn’t buying that the project would be abandoned if Heatherwood didn’t receive the tax benefits package.

“There is no possibility that they will not develop that land after they got the zone change, they are going ahead with the project,” Mones said. “It will yield a gold mine for the corporation. We believe this will bring no benefits to the community.”

Despite, the IDA rejecting the package, Pitti said he wouldn’t be surprised if Heatherwood broke ground on the project in the next few months.

A representative from Heatherwood did not return messages requesting a phone interview by press time.

 

Elected officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials have made it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a county property in East Setauket.

At a press conference Aug. 12, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), employees from the county’s parks department and residents were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old  Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking.

Bellone credited Hahn’s persistence for making the trail happen. The legislator secured $100,000 from the county’s 2018 Capital Budget and Program to fund the path. The trail starts at a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, runs around the perimeter of the farm and ends on Trustees Road right before visitors enter the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach pathway.

“What a wonderful gem this park is for our community and for the county, and what an incredible addition this is for people,” Bellone said. “You think, well is a path that significant, and the answer is yes. It literally changes the whole environment for people.”

Hahn said she knows that trails such as the Old Field Farm are important to the community, because it allows people to be physically active, while enjoying the outdoors without sharing the road with vehicles. 

The nearly half-mile trail can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I’m a runner, and I run often on West Meadow Road here,” she said. “There are some blind curves. And, this will also function to get people — walkers, runners, bikers — off the dangerous road and on to our public space. Having people have access to these public places is so important for us as elected officials to make sure that these spaces that we invest in — that we spend money to maintain — that people use them and appreciate them, and this is a way that many more people can take advantage.”

Hahn thanked community leaders for their support, including county parks department employees, Herb Mones of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, Larry Swanson from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Englebright, who secured the land for Suffolk in 1985 when he was a county legislator. She also thanked Sally Lynch, president of Old Field Farm, Ltd., who she called an advocate and steward of the property. Hahn said the nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years. The funds, in conjunction with county grants, have helped to restore and maintain the historic structures on the property. The farm is also home to horse shows, and the trail will be closed during those shows to avoid spooking the horses.

Old Field Farm consists of 13 acres that adjoin the 88 acres of protected wetlands and overlooks the Long Island Sound and West Meadow Creek. Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm in 1931, and it was initially called North Shore Horse Show Grounds. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create the equestrian facility, which includes a main barn and courtyard, freestanding stables and a wooden grandstand.

“This property is exquisite, spectacular as you can see,” Hahn said.

Englebright said the property could have been sold to a developer to build a waterfront housing development in 1985. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who owned it at the time, decided to sell it to the county. The land acquisition was an important one, he said, because it is located right next to West Meadow Beach. The assemblyman described the area as a mosaic of public lands forming a protective encirclement around West Meadow Creek. He called the addition of the trail extraordinary.

“With the access now of this trail, when you add this trail to Trustees Road, you have more than a mile of waterfront-exclusive, non-motorized access,” he said.

In the past, Hahn has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

 

A rendering of the planned Heatherwood Golf & Villas in South Setauket. Rendering from Town of Brookhaven Planning Board

The Brookhaven Industrial Development agency voted to postpone a decision to grant Heatherwood Luxury Rentals tax breaks for construction of rental housing units on its current golf course in South Setauket at a July 17 meeting.

File photo by Andrea Paldy

Lisa Mulligan, Town of Brookhaven director of economic development and CEO of the IDA and Local Development Corporation, said there were more than a dozen residents who attended the meeting and approximately six of them spoke during the public hearing. She said the comments varied from traffic concerns — which she added are outside of the office’s scope — and the tax breaks the company is applying for.

If approved at the IDA’s next meeting Aug. 21, Heatherwood could see its property taxes at the location, which falls in the Three Village and Comsewogue school districts, reduced by $3.76 million over the next 13 years. The package would also include $2,854,000 in sales tax exemptions and $420,000 in mortgage recording tax exemptions for a total savings of more than $7 million.

Last year, the Brookhaven Planning Board approved the proposed plans of Commack-based Heatherwood Luxury Rentals to build on nearly 26 acres of its more than 70-acre golf course on the southeast corner of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347. The new development will be called Heatherwood Golf & Villas and will be a 55-and-over community. The company plans to construct 200 rental housing units — 10 percent of which will be set aside for workforce housing units — and an 8,500-square-foot clubhouse with a pool. Heatherwood also plans to redesign the golf course, reducing it from 18 holes to nine.

Development of the golf course has faced opposition from nearby residents, elected officials and local civic associations since it was first presented in 2014. That year, town Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change for the property from A Residence 5, which allows one housing unit for every 5 acres, to Planned Retirement Community, which would allow a 55-and-over community. On Dec. 16, 2014, the town board approved it by a 4-3 vote. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), former Councilwoman Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) dissented.

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including requiring Heatherwood owner Douglas Patrick to donate 40 acres of land to the Manorville Farm Protection Area, removing a billboard at the golf course and constructing a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane. The town accepted the 40 acres of property in 2015 in lieu of the Pine Barrens Credit redemption required under the Planned Retirement Community code.

Cartright said in an email that within her district the project has been a highly controversial one.

“The community was against it from the get-go, and it was still able to squeak by somehow.”

— Salvatore Pitti

“Numerous residents and organizations have raised concern about this project, notably density and traffic concerns, especially in light of the existing traffic issues at this location,” the councilwoman said. “I stood with members of the community and opposed this application. However, over my objection and vote in opposition, the application was still granted, and open space benefits were provided to other areas outside of our community. The applicant has always touted this project as tax positive to the local school district. This application to the Brookhaven IDA seems to be in clear contravention to the promises made to our community.”

John Gobler, a nearly 50-year homeowner in Heatherwood Village South in South Setauket, is one of the residents who is concerned about traffic. At the July 9, 2018,  planning board meeting, he said the intersection of Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 has been a problem for several years due to the number of cars exiting onto Arrowhead and the timing of lights at the corner, where he has witnessed only four or five cars being able to go through a green light at one time.

Salvatore Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said in a phone interview the group has been opposed to the development since the beginning. He was on hand for the July 17 IDA meeting where he addressed the residents’ concerns about Heatherwood applying for tax breaks.

“If you’re a contractor, and you don’t have money to build a project, then don’t build it,” Pitti said. “The community was against it from the get-go, and it was still able to squeak by somehow. So why should we be burdening ourselves with less taxes coming our way from a new development when [Heatherwood] is the one who is going to be raking in all the profit.”

Herb Mones, chairperson of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, said the community has not supported the development since it was first proposed in 2014. He said he feels Heatherwood asking for tax breaks is an example of corporate greed.

“We are going to feel the effects of this high-density buildout in the Heatherwood area without any kind of benefit, and for the corporation to now apply for even more advantage, after getting what was millions of a windfall in a zone change, is almost incomprehensible,” he said.

George Hoffman, first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, said the IDA should reject the request.

“Our civic association was concerned that the zoning was changed without any community input, and we remain concerned that this ill-conceived project now seeks taxpayer-funded incentives like property tax abatements and sales tax exemptions,” he said.

Douglas Patrick could not be reached for comments before press time.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) discusses local issues with Three Village Civic Association members. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Residents filled the community room in the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library June 3 as the Three Village Civic Association hosted a conversation with Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) on all things townwide. Residents and Romaine were given the opportunity to discuss the latest issues impacting the Three Village area and beyond.

Here are some important topics Romaine brought up during the conversation.

Route 25A corridor study

The town is conducting a two-phase study, starting from the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The second phase of the project will focus on the rest of Route 25A to the Poquott line. The origins of the study date back to 2016.

“That, to me, is a very crucial thing as it sets the future of this town — I would like to see more urgency in it,” he said. “I feel like it has lagged.”

The Brookhaven supervisor said he believes one of the reasons for the holdup is that the county is currently doing a retail study on the area.

“I haven’t seen the study but people who have seen it have told me that the study will conclude that this area is under-retailed,” he said. “I’m no expert but I believe we are over-retailed, I think we have enough and don’t need additional retail development.”

Romaine said the corridor study is very important and urged residents to be involved in the process. He also brought up zoning concerns.

“One thing I learned during my time as a supervisor is that zonings are forever,” he said. “Once you zone something, you can’t take it away.”

Romaine hopes that the corridor study will get done by the end of 2019 or the beginning of 2020.

Smithtown Gyrodyne development

Romaine expressed concern with the proposed development of the 62-acre Flowerfield property, owned by Gyrodyne LLC and adjoining Route 25A in St. James, which is in the Town of Smithtown.

“I am opposed to the development that would have any interconnection to any roads that would lead to Stony Brook Road,” he said. “We do not need any additional traffic on Stony Brook Road at all. If it connects to Stony Brook Road, it would be a disaster.”

“I don’t want to see it overdeveloped, Romaine added.

Similarly, on the topic of traffic on Stony Brook Road, he said that he proposed the need for a turning lane on Oxhead Road so university students can make a left turn onto Nicolls Road. Also, he has proposed to the county to develop a third lane from Route 347 to the Stony Brook campus to alleviate traffic jams.

Stony Brook University housing

Romaine said he still had a few issues with the university regarding student housing. One idea he proposed was the school could require all non-commuter students who are freshmen to be mandated to live on campus.

“We have a lot of students who are coming from other countries,” he said. “They may be having their first experiences in this country here.”

The other issue he touched on is rooming houses, which he said are illegal in the Town of Brookhaven.

“We have spent a lot of time in the past trying to crack down on these houses,” he said.

Romaine said these owners have sometimes put up to eight or 10 students in these houses.

“A lot of times we shut these houses down — it goes empty in the summertime and then back in the fall it gets filled up again,” he said. “I hope the next university president will have a stricter policy when it comes to rentals.”

Proposed passive park

Recently, the Town of Brookhaven approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels which includes an old derelict building on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road on Route 25A. The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open-space passive park.

Recycling

Residents were wondering what the town is doing to tackle the issue of recycling.

“The recycling market collapsed last year when China stopped accepting 95 percent of recycled products,” Romaine said.

The supervisor said they have looked at a few options, but nobody wanted what they had. The town had to reevaluate its recycling program and see what still had value.

“We went back to dual stream and ended glass pickup because there really hasn’t ever been a true market for glass,” he said.

Romaine mentioned the town had found a potential suitor in New Jersey that would take some of the collected glass and use it as an industrial abrasive.

The Brookhaven supervisor said he would be open to discussing the recycling topic in more detail at a future meeting.

Emma Clark Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will host a lecture titled “The Genealogy of Historical Architectural Styles in the Three Villages: Rationalism, Romanticism and the Vernacular” on Monday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Joseph Betz

Guest speaker will be Joseph Betz, an architect, professor and former chairman of the Department of Architecture & Construction Management at Farmingdale State College. Betz has served the public as a member of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board and is currently a member of the Historic District Advisory Committee.

The question of, “What style do we build in?” first began in the 18th century as part of a transformation of consciousness that occurred in the Enlightenment. These styles can be grouped into two main categories: rationalism and romanticism. The first reflects a new rational philosophy of science and democracy, with its origins in Greek thought, while the other reflects a romantic escape into the past and has an emotional attachment with the good old days, religion and a fear of change. Both categories are influenced by local building traditions and forms.

The evening will examine the many historical architectural styles in the Three Villages and place them into these two main conceptual categories, giving the participant an easy way to identify and understand the meaning of these buildings.

Co-sponsored by Three Village Historical Society and Three Village Civic Association, the presentation will give an appreciation for the historic districts in the Town of Brookhaven and why these districts should be preserved as a learning environment for future generations.

Free and open to all. No registration necessary. For more information, call 631-941-4080.

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Town of Brookhaven Planning Board will conduct a full site review of Stony Brook Square before representatives come before them again Dec. 17. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Town of Brookhaven Planning Board has once again tabled a decision regarding the future of a Stony Brook shopping center.

“It went under construction, and it turned out it wasn’t going to work and raised traffic and safety issues.”

— Tim Shea

Representatives for Stony Brook Square LLC, the developer of the shopping center across from the train station on Route 25A, are scheduled to return in front of the board Dec. 17. In September, the Planning Board issued a stop work order as a result of field changes from the approved construction plans including widening of a driveway, two buildings’ locations shifting by a few feet, and the addition of 19 parking stalls at the rear of the property.

At the Sept. 17 Planning Board meeting, board members suggested Stony Brook Square’s president Parviz Farahzad and his representatives meet with the Three Village Civic Association to discuss local residents’ concerns. This meeting took place Oct. 15.

The civic association has opposed the field changes and Farahzad’s decision to not install a low-nitrogen septic system on the commercial property.

Farahzad’s attorney, Hauppauge-based Tim Shea, said at the Nov. 5 Planning Board meeting that even though numerous professionals and town officials had previously reviewed the site plans, once construction got underway the new engineer and general contractor realized changes needed to be made.

“It went under construction, and it turned out it wasn’t going to work and raised traffic and safety issues,” Shea said.

Michael Williams, of R&W Engineers, who was brought on board after construction began, said commercial trucks were having difficulty entering the site, often jumping the curb. The original plans called for the entranceway to the center to be 24-feet wide. He said field changes widened the driveway to 30 feet, which was approved by New York State Department of Transportation. Due to this change, one building’s footprint was moved 6 feet to the west and the shift affected another building which was also moved.

Three Village Civic Association board members George Hoffman, 1st vice president; Laurie Vetere, 2nd vice president; and Herb Mones, land use committee chair, attended the Nov. 5 Planning Board meeting.

Hoffman said when residents discussed the development with Farahzad at 25A visioning meetings, the developer agreed that the buildings by being closer to 25A would lend a downtown feel and help to slow down traffic.

“We’re really concerned about the walkability of our community.”

— George Hoffman

“We’re really concerned about the walkability of our community,” Hoffman said. “This was not designed for trucks coming in and out.”

Vetere spoke out on the loss of land banking to 19 additional parking stalls. She said residents whose properties abuts the shopping center in the rear should have been notified of the proposed changes in advance of previous Planning Board meetings. Vetere encouraged the board members to hear from those neighbors before making their decision. The civic association supports land banking instead of the 19 spots because it will insulate the nearby neighbors from the noise of slamming car doors, chirping alarms and nighttime conversations in the lot.

She said if any leniency is shown to the developer in regard to these field changes, the board should ask him to install the low-nitrogen septic system as originally approved, which reduces a percentage of nitrogen in waste water. In a previous interview with TBR News Media, Farahzad said he was hesitant to install a system that he feels is still too new for commercial use.

“It would be a nice legacy for him to leave to the community,” Vetere said.

Shea said his client is likely willing to consent to keeping the land banking. As for the distance of the buildings from Route 25A, he said while the few feet won’t be noticeable to someone walking, it will matter to a truck driver who will be able to enter and exit safely.

Three residents in attendance asked that the Planning Board allows the developer to continue construction as soon as possible. One was Poquott resident Seth Goldstein who has already signed a lease to open a Jersey Mike’s Subs in the shopping center. He said he felt the expansion of the entranceway was a positive change.

“There is a need for that access and egress for trucks to go in and out of that location,” Goldstein said, adding he felt that the walkability is actually improved by the buildings’ new positions.

The board’s decision was held until Dec. 17 despite Shea asking for an earlier hearing. Vincent Pascale, Planning Board chairman, said the board will require two weeks or more for a full site plan review and to go through prior testimony.

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Stop & Shop is planning to paint the East Setauket store gray and change the bottle redemption center from the front to the back. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

A supermarket chain’s requests of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board are creating concerns in East Setauket from a historical and environmental perspective.

“We’re really concerned that this kind of dark color is going to contrast with the historic district, and it won’t be in conformity with a lot of the architecture of the other buildings.”

— George Hoffman

Peggy Kelly, of Kelly’s Expediting Corp., representing Stop & Shop, attended the Oct. 15 planning board meeting asking for a facade color change to three Stop & Shop stores in Brookhaven — Medford, Farmingville and East Setauket — and switching the location of the East Setauket bottle redemption area from the front of the store to the back.

The color change would mean the facade of the Route 25A store in East Setauket would go from sandstone to gray. Kelly said the facade will change at eight Brookhaven stores, and it has already been altered in 21 locations in Suffolk County.

“Currently Stop & Shop is going through a refreshing,” Kelly said. “What they’re trying to do is develop an image which to the customer — the consumer — is going to [be] more fresh, green and a more healthy look.”

George Hoffman, first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, was on hand for the planning board meeting and said the civic was opposed to the new color scheme that would be painted over the current beige sandstone for the majority of the building. He said the gray the representatives from the civic group were shown seemed to be a dark slate and not a light shade and would stand out. The applicant is also applying to paint the rest of the shopping center gray.

“We’re really concerned that this kind of dark color is going to contrast with the historic district, and it won’t be in conformity with a lot of the architecture of the other buildings,” Hoffman said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) submitted a letter to the planning board stating that the proposed color change would be contrary to the historic character of the community.

“A dark gray facade would stand out in our retail area and draw attention in a manner that would work against architectural cohesion and continuity,” Englebright wrote.

Hoffman said the civic also had an issue with the changing of the bottle redemption center location since it will be harder to get to.

“A dark gray facade would stand out in our retail area and draw attention in a manner that would work against architectural cohesion and continuity.”

— Steve Englebright

“There’s a small little alleyway — well driveway — that leads to the back,” Hoffman said. “You have to pass by the truck loading zone and the trash compactor and now they’re going to put it in the back parking lot. At a time when we should be encouraging recycling you don’t want to make it harder for people to bring back their bottles.”

Englebright in his letter said the current bottle return location in the front of the store is in an ideal spot as it’s convenient and accessible to customers walking from the parking lot. He wrote that he believes changing the location to the rear of the store would lead to a reduction in recycling since Stop & Shop is the only supermarket in the Setauket/East Setauket area.

Kelly said the bottle redemption center being moved to the back would give customers a larger space and prevent congestion in front of the store. She said if the board didn’t agree to the change, the location could remain in the front.

Kelly added East Setauket was the only location with a question about the color change. All other Brookhaven civic associations or council members who have reached out to their communities have approved the new color scheme.

The board tabled the decision until the next planning board meeting Nov. 5 and asked that Stop & Shop representatives meet with the Three Village Civic Association.

Both the chain and civic are open to the suggestion, and Hoffman said they will meet before the end of the month.

“We are aware of civic concerns regarding a possible color change and bottle deposit relocation at our Setauket store,” said Steve Kienzle, senior vice president of market operations and sales for Stop & Shop. “We are reviewing all options so that we can bring the situation to a resolution.”

Construction can resume on the site of the future Stony Brook Square shopping center. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The future of a Stony Brook shopping center has been put on hold until the Town of Brookhaven’s Planning Board members get some answers.

At the town’s Sept. 17 planning meeting, representatives for Little Rock Construction and its president Parviz Farahzad were seeking approval for modifications that were made to site plans to Stony Brook Square, a shopping center under construction across from the Stony Brook train station on Route 25A. A stop work order was issued after town inspectors discovered discrepancies between the site plans and what has already been completed on the construction site.

“It’s so hard to believe that these kinds of major changes would be made to the site plan without any type of authorization or approval.”

— Herb Mones

Among the modifications were the changing of two building locations, handicap accessible parking, cross access and grading.

Farahzad’s attorney, Hauppauge-based Tim Shea, contacted Three Village Civic Association representatives Herb Mones, chair of the association’s land use committee, and George Hoffman, 1st vice president of the association, Sept. 24 to go over the modifications, according to Mones.

“It’s so hard to believe that these kinds of major changes would be made to the site plan without any type of authorization or approval,” Mones said in a phone interview, adding in the past the town, civic association and community members provided input for the location’s plans.

Mones said a major objection from members of the civic association is the entryway changing from the initially approved 24 feet to 30. This adjustment means the largest building on the property is shifted 5 feet to the west from the original plans and closer to the historic home on the 3-acre site that Mones said during 25A visioning community meetings residents felt was essential to preserve and feature in the project.

At the Sept. 17 meeting, Farahzad’s engineer Michael Williams said his office was contacted earlier this year by the applicant to review claims by the site contractor that there were issues with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance in front of the building. He said the cross slope through the handicap accessible parking and access aisle was too steep pursuant to federal regulations. To alleviate the issue of the ADA ramp’s cross slope, the elevation of the site closest to the driveway entrance was changed, and the site was flattened, which increased the size of the entranceway.

Mones said the civic association also has issues with an area that was designated for land banking now being used for 19 parking spots. He explained that land banking allows for an area to be landscaped until it is proven a business owner needs it for parking.

He said while he appreciates the town was alerted to the changes and put a stop work order on the construction, he believes it still poses problems.

“Is it going to send a message out to developers that you can willy-nilly make changes in the approved site plan and then ask for forgiveness?”

— Herb Mones

“I think the town has a challenge before them,” Mones said. “Is it going to send a message out to developers that you can willy-nilly make changes in the approved site plan and then ask for forgiveness?”

Mones said representatives from the civic association would be attending the Oct. 1 Planning Board meeting.

“We think that the town should adhere to the site plan that was developed, and since the project is far from being completed, it shouldn’t be difficult for [the developer] to adhere to the site plan that they originally planned on with the town, with the town planners and with the community,” Mones said.

The Planning Board members put their decision on hold until the Oct. 1 meeting, and Farahzad was advised to bring updated site plans Oct. 1 and to consult with the Three Village Civic Association about the modifications.

“I would like to see a plan that shows what’s existing — not proposed — and what we had previously approved and what has changed,” said assistant town attorney Beth Reilly at the Sept. 17 meeting. “Because when you look at this it looks like nothing is out there, but that’s not what our inspectors found when they did a stop work order on this job. I feel like the plans still don’t match what we’re being told.”

Farahzad did not respond to requests for comment.

Three Village Civic Association held a forum Sept. 4 during which Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Rich Johannesen, Mary Ann Johnston and Anthony Figliola weighed in on an upcoming referendum in Brookhaven. Photo by Alex Petroski

Brookhaven Town has taken steps to change laws pertaining to terms of office for elected officials, but civically minded citizens are discussing it before jumping on board just yet. The Three Village Civic Association hosted a forum Sept. 4 at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library featuring four experts to discuss the proposal, which will appear on November’s ballot in the form of a referendum to be passed or failed by Brookhaven voters. Audience members came from as far afield as Medford and Patchogue.

The speakers included 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station); Rich Johannesen, a veteran of local politics considered an expert in governmental workings, who helped lead a citizens initiative to establish council districts in the town more than 15 years ago; MaryAnn Johnston, president of the Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations who also has seen more than her fair share of political races and policy discussions; and Anthony Figliola, former Brookhaven deputy supervisor and vice president of Empire Government Strategies, a company that provides strategic counsel on governmental relations and practices to municipalities.

Brookhaven’s board voted unanimously Aug. 2 to establish a referendum on the ballot Nov. 6 asking town residents to weigh in on changes to terms in office for elected officials, specifically increasing terms from two years, as is currently the law, to four years for councilmembers, the supervisor and highway superintendent, which would put it on par with the other Suffolk townships. The referendum will have a second component as part of the same, single “yea” or “nay” question: limiting officials to three terms in office. That component would impact the above positions, as well as town clerk and receiver of taxes. Both components will appear as part of a single proposition, according to Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto. If passed the law would go into effect for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

In 1993, residents voted to implement a limit of three terms of four years each on elected officials, though that law was no longer applicable following a 2002 public vote to establish council districts since state law dictates councilmembers in towns with council districts serve two-year terms, according to Emily Pines, Romaine’s chief of staff and a former New York State Supreme Court justice, who spoke during the Aug. 2 town hearing.

Some of the speakers at the Sept. 4 civic forum took issue with Brookhaven’s interpretation that the law of the town isn’t already limiting elected officials to serving three terms, calling on politicians to solicit an opinion from the state attorney general. Others pointed to language which could allow sitting board members to start their term clocks afresh, despite having served several terms already on the board, as particularly objectionable. Some suggested the referendum felt rushed saying, waiting a year would ensure full community awareness about the town’s intentions.

Below are some of the comments from the civic association’s invited guests in a session moderated by the civic’s Herb Mones:

Johannesen: “I’m going to be very clear — I oppose four-year terms. The longer we allow elected officials to serve without putting them before us, the more likely it is that they are going to become corrupt. I think if you look at the history of corruption in this town and you look at the history of corruption in this county, one of the reasons why our elected officials have gone south is because there were no checks and balances. There hasn’t really been the kind of political diversity we were hoping for.”

Johnston: “The founders thought it was good enough for our congressmen to be two years; the state constitution provides for our assemblymen and our senators to be two years. And if the problem is raising funds for political campaigns, then the issue isn’t the length of term, because we have no guarantee they’ll ever stop raising funds and do it continually for four years. This is what the voters want: We chose councilmatic districts and the Town of Brookhaven fought us tooth and nail all the way down the line. And now they’re telling us that the 1993 referendum that we enacted was repealed by council districts. That’s not true. We already have term limits. It can’t be repealed by implication.”

Figliola: “To be perfectly candid, whether it’s two years or four years, you can’t legislate human conduct. So, if people are going to be corrupt, they’re going to be corrupt. I think that’s what prosecutors are for. It’s very hard to get elected if you’re a challenger unless it’s an open seat. It’s possible … but it’s difficult. That doesn’t have anything to do with corruption. I believe term limits can help, they can’t completely stop it, but can help because it will open up an opportunity for citizen legislators to be able to run. What this will do is, this will say ‘you have consecutively or nonconsecutively three four-year terms and then you’re out.’”

Cartright: “As you all know, two town board meetings ago, I voted in support of putting this on the ballot for a vote. This has been something that me and my colleagues have been discussing for quite some time — at least four years or so. I think this is an important discussion that needs to be had. Am I advocating one or another? I am not. I understand both sides. My personal opinion is that for good governance, I do think that four years would be better than two years, based on my experiences.”