Town of Huntington officials have decided to use the public hearing on contentious plans for a proposed Elwood mall as the trial run for taking town board meetings on the road.
Huntington Town board members voted 4-1 to reschedule public comments on the proposed Villadom Mall to a May 17 town board session that will be held at Elwood Middle School.
“This will be our test case,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.
Lupinacci, during his 2017 campaign for town office, had proposed rotating where town board meetings are held in attempt to increase accessibility to residents. He said he felt the strong community interest in developer Villadom Corp’s proposal to construct a 486,380-square foot mall with mixed retail and office space on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood provided a good opportunity to try relocating.
“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project…”
— Steve Stern
“The middle school auditorium has more seating,” the supervisor said. “I am sure it will be a long hearing of several hours of comments.”
Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against relocating the Villadom hearing, citing security concerns and potential confusion for concerned residents.
Many area residents voiced their opinions on the proposed mall at the April 10 town board meeting. The first among them was former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).
“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project and overdevelopment in our area which will have a tremendously adverse impact on the aquifer, already heavy traffic and the quality of life,” Stern said.
He said the Suffolk County Legislature previously voted against Orchard Park, a prior proposal to build 360 luxury apartments in addition to retail and office space, on the same site as Elwood Orchard, Villadom’s proposed project.
“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent.”
— Robert Rocklein
Robert Rocklein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, said he is supportive of Villadom’s plans.
“I see the glass as half full, not half empty,” he said. “I see a lot of benefits that could be bestowed on the community.”
Rocklein said he believes residents’ fears of the mixed-use project have been created by information circulating on social media. He once viewed a similar development in Short Hills, New Jersey whose tenants he said have given more than $1 million a year to community organizations and groups.
“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent,” Rocklein said. “Elwood school district stands to have the most to gain, but also the most to lose.”
An online petition started against the proposed Villadom Mall has gathered more than 4,000 signatures in the last three weeks. Residents have voiced concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development’s storm water runoff on drinking water as well as potentially increased traffic on Jericho Turnpike, Old Country and Deer Park roads.
The Greater Huntington Civic Group, a nonprofit organization of multiple civic associations in the Town of Huntington, will be hosting a public meeting with the developer April 18 at 7 p.m. prior to the town hearing. The event will be held at the Huntington Moose Lodge, located at 631 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn.