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.
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.