Brookhaven BZA postpones decision on Old Setauket Historic District property

Brookhaven BZA postpones decision on Old Setauket Historic District property

The property in question, outlined in blue, sits behind Village Automotive Service on North Country Road, 250 feet north of Route 25A. Image by Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals

At the April 27 Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing, a decision about property at 63 N. Country Road, Setauket, was put on hold until its next meeting, May 25.

Known by many in the area as the former Caropelo property, the current applicant, listed as 63 N. Country Road LLC, c/o Jennifer Leeds with a P.O. box in Coram, is seeking several variances on the 3.3-acre property on the east side of North Country Road and north of Route 25A.

The owner is seeking approval to subdivide the 144,452 square-foot parcel into four lots. The proposal is to build single-family residences on each plot after the division of the property. The smaller parcels of land will range from 32,648 square feet to 40,000 square feet. A shared driveway for lots 1 through 3 would exit onto North Country Road and a second driveway for lot 4 would be from the town arterial.

The Three Village Civic Association recently sent to members a copy of a letter, written by Land Use Chairman Herb Mones and addressed to Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook), to notify them of the variance application.

According to the civic association, the wooded property adjacent to the Thompson-Detmer Farm and behind Village Automotive Center and the old phone company building is one of the few remaining open parcels of land along the Route 25A corridor.

In his letter, Mones summarized other points why the parcel “bears an ‘outsized’ significance”:

  • It is highly visible due to it bordering “our busiest roadway” — Route 25A.
  • It is part of the Old Setauket Historic District.
  • It has a natural grade/slope to the existing farmland that needs to be protected.
  • Any exit from this property is onto Brookhaven’s historic “first road” — North Country Road.

According to BZA planner, Christopher Wrede, during the April 27 meeting prior applications included lot divisions and a change of zone application to provide for J Business throughout the parcel in 2013. The current applicant purchased the property in 2021 and was not part of prior applications.

Wrede said 77.4% of the property is zoned for A-1 residence and the remaining is J Business. The most restrictive zoning classification, A-1 residence, would apply. Residence zoning requires lots of at least 40,000 square feet and three of the four lots do not meet the requirement.

The town’s Historic District Advisory Committee had an opportunity to review the application, and one of the recommendations was a cluster plan to help prevent “suburban sprawl.” Such a plan means building homes closer together to preserve more open space.

At the BZA meeting, attorney Larry Davis represented Leeds and answered some concerns and board members’ questions. Wrede said during the meeting the Environmental Assessment Form had inaccuracies regarding wetlands near the property. Davis said the owner reached out to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and it is believed that nearby wetlands do not affect the property.

Davis said the three lots that do not meet the square-footage criteria do not have a detrimental effect on the nearby neighborhood. He said there is more than sufficient frontage on Route 25A, and the owner doesn’t want to access the state road, which the NYS Department of Transportation will not allow.

Davis also said regarding an alternative plan that Wrede created, the owner wasn’t opposed to the property being divided into three lots and moving two houses closer.

Mones, in a phone interview, said civic association members are concerned because, despite prior development proposals by previous owners being brought to the attention of the civic association or Brookhaven Planning Board, this one wasn’t. While it is not required, it gives either the civic association or Planning Board an opportunity to weigh in and provide better options if necessary. Mones said, currently, proposals such as this one that involves four houses or less “jumps right from a developer’s sketch pad right to the board of zoning appeals for approval” in Brookhaven.

Mones said the civic association would like to see the best use of the property with the least impact to the 25A corridor.

“We see over and over again developers looking to build what is a traditional suburban sprawl or footprint on parcels of land that are better served if the houses were placed a little bit closer together and most of the land left open,” Mones said, adding the best resolution would be to preserve and protect it as part of the Thompson legacy.