Government

Supreme Court judge throws out lawsuit against Shoreham solar project

The DeLalio Sod Farm in Shoreham, where a solar panel facility is in the works. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town reached the trifecta of adopting renewable energy codes when it embraced Suffolk County’s model solar code last week.

After previously adopting the county’s geothermal and wind energy codes, the Brookhaven Town Board approved the one for solar, which will permit solar energy production facilities by planning board special permit in the town’s industrial zones. According to Suffolk County Planning Commission Chairman Dave Calone, the town is the first in the county to adopt all three model codes.

“Brookhaven is the place where renewable energy is moving forward,” Calone said prior to a public hearing on the matter on Aug. 6.

Deputy Town Attorney Beth Reilly said the code applies to the town’s industrial districts, L Industrial 1, light industry; L Industrial 2, heavy industry; and L Industrial 4. Permitted uses in light industry include banks, agricultural or nursery uses, places of worship, day cares, health clubs, manufacturing within a building, offices and warehouse spaces, while uses in heavy industry include manufacturing of asphalt, cement fertilizers, and chemicals; junkyards; farmers markets and stockyards. L4 districts deal solely with the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy.

“The intent of this section [is] to provide adequate safeguards for the location, siting and operation of solar production facilities,” the code states.

The day before the Town Board’s adoption, a state Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the town, its planning board and zoning board of appeals that sought to overturn the town’s approvals for a solar-energy production facility in Shoreham.

Eight Shoreham residents listed under the community group Shoreham Wading River Advocates for Justice filed the lawsuit in November against the town entities, along with sPower, a renewable energy company based in Utah and California, and utilities PSEG Long Island and the Long Island Power Authority. sPower has an agreement to sell power generated at a future 50,000-solar panel facility, located on the DeLalio Sod Farm, to PSEG. Many residents who live near the farm have advocated against it, saying the project is too large for a residential area.

Calone said he believes the new solar code, which outlines where the solar arrays should be located, will lead to new projects being welcomed to communities.

The total coverage of solar panels cannot exceed 60 percent of the lot area and freestanding panels cannot reach more than 20 feet above the ground, according to the code, which also adds buffer and setback restrictions. In addition, the code outlines design standards for the solar panels.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) thanked Calone and Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island), who worked with the county on the code.

“The one thing that is so beneficial is getting uniform code that can apply to all 10 towns so there is no guessing,” Romaine said. “It isn’t different from one town to another. It makes it simple for alternative energy to move forward.”

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The Huntington Town Board is taking a shot at regulating what some say is an uptick in deer by hosting a public hearing on a plan to allow seasonal bow hunting on Eaton’s Neck.

Residents who are interested in weighing in on the plan can get a better understanding of what changes would be made to hunting laws at the hearing on Aug. 11 at 2 p.m.

The proposal would amend the town code to allow long bow hunting during hunting season on private properties to anyone who has a hunting license issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

A survey of the area’s residents shows support for the proposal, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter,

“Our major concern is safety, traveling our roads at night is hazardous and using our property has become impossible,” Ken Kraska, a resident of Eaton’s Neck said at the July 14 Town Board meeting.

Kraska said himself and many other residents own several acres of “virgin, wooded, undeveloped land,” and the deer population is starting to overrun it. He also described the deer as aggressive, especially during mating season.

The issue of Lyme disease also has residents worried.

“The number of deer has doubled and then tripled, people have had to hire companies to spray for ticks, and you have to do it constantly to stay on top of it,” Joe DeRosa, another Eaton’s Neck resident said at the meeting.

DeRosa has several grandchildren, and says he’s constantly on alert with them as well.

Mel Ettinger, trustee and police commissioner of Asharoken Village, said that an increased deer population has been a problem for years there, too.

“Every year there are more accidents involving deer and automobiles,” Ettinger said.

Animal activists don’t support this method of dealing with the issue and believe that there are more humane ways to reduce the number of deer.

“Bow hunting is one of the cruelest forms of hunting,” Kristin DeJournett, cruelty casework manager for PETA said.

DeJournett described alternative methods to keep deer away, including targeting food supply by cutting back on edible plants.

An increase in native plants, or plants that grow naturally in a particular region, without direct or indirect human intervention, will help reduce interest from deer, since native plants have grown over time and have a natural resistance to local deer, she said.

DeJournett said that scarecrows could work against deer, as well as placing soap or pepper spray on your property, because the smell deters the animals.

“Lethal methods don’t work to control animal populations in the long-term,” she said. “When animals are killed, more animals move in to replace them, and it creates a temporary increased food supply, which causes the remaining does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

Wendy Chamberlin, president of the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island, also shares the belief that bow hunting is a cruel and ineffective option.

“For sentience animals, that have thoughts and feelings, it is particularly cruel…it is a long, drawn out, agonizing death,” she said.

Members of the Town Board offered mixed thoughts on the proposal in interviews this week.

“I do think it’s a complicated and sensitive issue,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said. “Any time lives of wildlife are taken we have to be very clear on what we’re doing and why.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) seemed a bit more decided against the proposal.

“I know that there is a problem with the deer population, but I believe there is a probably a more humane way to deal with it.”

Councilman Gene Cook (I) indicated that he would be voting against the measure.

“I don’t like it, I think it is a cruel way to handle this, and it’s dangerous. It is bad for the residents and bad for the deer.”

A gas station and convenience store is proposed for the corner of Route 25A and Woodbine Avenue in Northport Village. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The entrance to Northport Village off of Route 25A could be in store for a face-lift.

Long considered an eyesore by some, the corner of Woodbine Avenue and Route 25A is the subject of a zoning board application for a gas station and convenience store.

Applicant Edward Clark, of Babylon, and his architect Harold Gebhard, of Lindenhurst, are seeking area and use variances to move forward with the plan, but the zoning board wants more information — particularly on traffic impacts — following a public hearing on the proposal last week.

Currently, a vacant white building that was once a gas station and auto repair shop sits on the property. The applicant is seeking to rehabilitate the current building, add a canopy, gas pumps, a convenience store and eight parking spaces. If approved, a maximum of six cars could gas up at a time. Clark said he’s been in discussions with BP to be the new gas station. 

The convenience store would sell soda, coffee, packaged foods, bread, milk and more, but there would be no food preparation on site, Clark said. He said he needs the convenience store to offset the cost of gas.

Zoning board members expressed some concern about the appearance of the project, especially the size of the convenience store and the height of a proposed canopy atop the gas pumps. Clark and Gebhard said from its peak to the ground the canopy would be about 18 feet high.

Zoning board member Arlene Handel said she was concerned about the height of the canopy obscuring a “historic entry point” to the village.

“It’s very much an important part of the character of the village,” she said. She added that a tall canopy “is really going to cut upon the view.”

ZBA Chairman Andrew Cangemi had a flurry of questions about the project that were mostly traffic-related. He wanted to know the number of cars the project is anticipated to generate during hours of operation and its peak hour volumes, and how the lighting would look.

Some residents in the audience expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal and questioned whether the community needed another gas station. But Cangemi pointed out that the site needs work and a gas station had already existed there.

“We understand something’s got to go in there,” Cangemi said.

Clark said he’s been trying to move forward with developing the site for several years and called the long process a “nightmare.”

“I’ve been paying rent, real estate taxes on this property for three years to get to this point now,” he said.

The public hearing will be held open until Sept. 16. Cangemi asked the applicant to come back with a traffic study.

A $6.5 million project to repave and repair Route 25A will resume in Northport and Cold Spring Harbor on Monday. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Route 25A’s $6.5 million makeover is set to resume in Cold Spring Harbor and Northport on Monday, Aug. 10, the New York State Department of Transportation said on Friday.

Motorists can expect travel lanes to be shifted between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in both areas. In Cold Spring Harbor, repair and repaving will be underway between Glen Way and Lawrence Hill Road. In Northport, the work will span Elwood and Middleville roads, according to the DOT. No travel lane closures are expected — a single travel lane will be maintained in each direction.

The DOT estimates those sections of Route 25A to be complete in about two weeks, weather permitting.

The work is part of a larger 10.6-mile project along Route 25A/Main Street/Fort Salonga Road between NY Route 108 in Cold Spring Harbor and Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga, all within Huntington Town. The top layer of distressed pavement along the project area is being removed and replaced with new asphalt and the DOT is replacing traffic signals and installing fresh pavement markings, including bike lane striping and more visible pedestrian crosswalks. The project also includes the installation of rumble devices on the center yellow lines to provide noise and vibration warnings to motorists who may stray across into oncoming traffic. In addition, workers will clean and repair drainage structures to improve roadway runoff.

Construction is being staged on shorter, limited sections of the project area, and the work is taking place during off-peak day and nighttime hours, depending on each area’s overall needs and characteristics. On-street parking will not be permitted during the construction work. Drivers are being warned of the construction and urged to use alternate routes to avoid travel delays. Local officials, businesses, schools and emergency service providers have been notified about the repaving operations in their areas.

Posillico Civil, Inc., of Farmingdale, is under contract with the DOT to perform the project.

“When completed, these pavement repairs will improve motorists’ safety and help maintain the integrity of NY Route 25A/Main Street/Fort Salonga Road in the Town of Huntington,” according to the DOT.

Drivers who cannot use alternate routes are reminded to drive carefully through the work zone for their safety as well as the safety of the highway work crew.

The construction work may be canceled, postponed or prolonged due to inclement weather.

For up-to-date traffic and travel information, motorists should call 511 or visit www.511NY.org. Travel information can also be obtained from the INFORM Transportation Management Center cameras at www.INFORMNY.com.

Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

After a tumultuous year at the Smithtown Animal Shelter, a new director has been appointed and a fresh start seems certain.

The Smithtown Town Board has voted in Susan Hansen, of Rocky Point, and she began her new post on Wednesday, Aug. 5.   

“I’ve been an animal advocate for as long as I can remember, and I want to make a difference,” Hansen said in a phone interview.

Hansen has volunteered at multiple animal shelters including Manhattan Shelter, Brookhaven Municipal Animal Shelter, the Riverhead Municipal Animal Shelter and the North Fork Animal Welfare League.

But she has done more than just volunteer; she is also the founder of a nonprofit animal welfare organization that promotes shelter reform.

A Better Shelter Inc. provides assistance to local animal welfare organizations, shelters and communities through fundraising, adoption efforts and TNR, or trap, neuter, return. TNR is a proven method to help control the feral cat population.

Sue Hansen works with one of the many pets she has helped throughout her career. Photo from Sue Hansen
Sue Hansen works with one of the many pets she has helped throughout her career. Photo from Sue Hansen

Hansen’s expertise goes beyond animal advocacy; she has been a computer programmer for more than 20 years and hopes to bring her understanding of computer programs to the animal shelter, to update record keeping.

“I want to use my experience with computers and computer programs to help integrate old procedures and policies with new ones, and make the shelter a more welcoming and friendly environment,” Hansen said.

Smithtown Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R), who took on the role of animal shelter liaison earlier this year, was a part of the decision to bring in Hansen.

“She’s going to bring this shelter into the 21st century and set up new procedures and policies, including a new volunteer training program which will be much more intensive,” Nowick said in a phone interview.

The volunteer training program would help teach volunteers that aren’t familiar with certain animals how to interact with them and set certain age groups with certain hours to volunteer.

“Usually animals are kept separate, I want to introduce play groups, and make this a more progressive shelter,” Hansen said. She hopes that this new volunteer program would lead to an increase in adoption rates.

Nowick felt one of Hansen’s most unique skills she brings to the shelter is that she is a grant writer. If the shelter was able to apply for and receive grants, then new opportunities could be brought to the shelter, like getting a vet to visit the shelter two to three days a week, or having a behaviorist come to evaluate the animals and prepare them for adoption.

“Our mission isn’t to be a shelter, it’s to be a middle home, to get pets adopted,” Nowick said.

Hansen has worked with the Suffolk County Department of Public Works as a grant analyst, where she provided support for federal and state grants awarded to Suffolk County.

The previous director, George Beatty, 62, stepped down in June, after more than 30 years, following heavy criticism from Smithtown residents. Citizens deemed Beatty’s leadership role inadequate and the conditions animals lived in and were cared for at the shelter unacceptable.

“I was aware of what was happening with the shelter, and I recognized that there was a need for change there,” Hansen said.

She said she is looking forward to working with the staff and the community, and plans to give this new job “110 percent.”

State appellate court sides with municipalities in rulings

Northport power plant. File photo

Huntington Town and Northport-East Northport school district’s fight to knock the lights out of a Long Island Power Authority lawsuit that looks to drastically decrease how much the utility pays in taxes on the Northport power plant recently got a big boost.

Last week, a New York State appellate court ruled in favor of the municipalities, clearing the way for both to go to trial against the utility and engage in pretrial depositions and discovery. In 2010, LIPA filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town, claiming the town greatly over-assessed the Northport power plant and that it should be paying millions less in taxes.

Northport-East Northport schools, along with Huntington Town, filed companion lawsuits in May 2011 that claimed LIPA didn’t have the right to file to reduce its taxes and that it breached a 1997 contract promising it wouldn’t. In 2013, a New York State Supreme Court justice upheld the district and town’s rights to sue LIPA and National Grid, and last week’s court ruling upheld that lower court ruling.

LIPA sought to have the school district tossed out of the suit, but the district claimed it was a legal third-party beneficiary of a 1997 power supply agreement between LIPA and the Long Island Lighting Company. Last week’s court ruling upheld that claim. It cites a 1997 letter from LIPA to the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, to which Northport-East Northport belongs, that upon the issuance of a 1997 power supply agreement, “LIPA will immediately drop all tax certiorari cases against all municipalities and school districts,” and that “neither LIPA nor LILCO will initiate any further tax certiorari cases on any of their respective properties at any time in the future unless a municipality abusively increases its assessment rate,” as “spelled out in the [PSA].”

Stuart Besen, the town’s attorney on the case, said he believes the letter from Richard Kessel, former chairman of LIPA, was integral in swaying the judges to rule in favor of the municipalities.

“I just think that Supervisor [Frank] Petrone really deserves a lot of credit for having the foresight for one, making sure the clause was in the [power supply agreement], and two, demanding that Richard Kessel reiterate that position in a letter.”

If successful in the suit, the town wouldn’t have to pay approximately $180 million in taxes the utility claims it overpaid in a three-year period, Besen said. LIPA pays roughly $70 million in taxes on the Northport power plant, town officials have said.

The utility contends the plant is worth less than 11 percent of the value reflected by its current assessment. If LIPA was successful in lowering its assessment and thus the amount it pays in taxes, town residents could be hit with tax increases of up to 10 percent. Those who live in the Northport-East Northport school and library districts could get a whopping 50 percent increase in their taxes.

John Gross, senior managing partner at Ingerman Smith, who represents the school district in the case, said the next step is to move forward with discovery and a motion for summary judgment in favor of the district.

“And if we win that, that means the claims they made to reduce the value of the plant are thrown out,” Gross said in an interview on Tuesday.

The town and the school district are partners in the lawsuit, Gross said.

Asked what town taxpayers should take away from the development, Besen said “that the town is fighting.”

“The town is fighting a big entity, both National Grid and LIPA. But we feel we’re right. We feel that those three years we don’t have to pay, that LIPA and National Grid made a promise to the people of Huntington and the town is going to do everything possible legally to uphold that promise.”

Sid Nathan, a spokesman for LIPA, said the authority couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

A local effort to ban a popular ingredient in beauty products has support on the federal level.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman visited Long Island recently to announce the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a bipartisan federal bill that would ban cosmetics containing plastic pellets called microbeads, which are frequently smaller than 1 millimeter in diameter and are found in face washes, shampoos, beauty products and other soaps.

Because of their size, most wastewater treatment systems are unable to filter out the microbeads, so they are released into local waterways like the Long Island Sound. But microbeads accumulate toxins in the water, and fish and birds ingest them. Public health could be at risk if the fish are reeled in and eaten.

Schneiderman reported that about 19 tons of the small pellets pass through New York wastewater treatment plants each year.

Gillibrand’s bill has sponsors and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, most of them from the Midwest, according to a press release from the senator’s office. It is similar to a New York state-level bill of the same name, which is Schneiderman’s effort to prohibit the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads.

“These tiny pieces of plastic have already caused significant ecological damage to New York’s waterways,” Gillibrand said, “and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace.”

The state bill passed the Assembly in the last session but was not put up for a vote in the Senate, despite having more co-sponsors than the number of votes it would have needed to pass.

New York is not alone in pushing to ban microbeads — Illinois has already given them the axe, and other states are considering similar legislation.

Many local residents first heard about the issue when Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) led her colleagues to passing a law that required the county to study how a microbead ban would affect health and the economy.

She commended officials for their anti-microbead effort on the national stage.

“The threat posed by microbead waste is of national consequence,” Hahn said in the press release. “The cumbersome task of tackling this issue [from] municipality to municipality and state to state will never prove as effective as a federal approach.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the local Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said there are other effective alternatives to microbeads, such as apricot shells, salt and oatmeal.

“The public expects facial soaps and toothpaste to clean our face and teeth, not pollute our waters,” Esposito said. “Plastic microbeads pollute our waters, contaminate our fish and shellfish, and could end up back on our dinner plates. They are completely unnecessary.”

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals is pushing pause on considering a plan to build a 7-Eleven in Centerport and wants more information on the proposal’s potential traffic and environmental impacts.

The application, which was scheduled for a public hearing before the ZBA today, Thursday, July 30, has been taken off the agenda, according to Robert Riekert, deputy director of planning and environment for the town. The decision came after the town received an engineer’s analysis of the 7-Eleven proposal earlier this week, requesting the applicant, 7-Eleven Inc., respond to a list of issues.

“The meeting was adjourned until a further date due to insufficiencies in their application,” Riekert said in an email.

Plans for a 7-Eleven have been in the works for a few years now. The company had tried to establish a new 7-Eleven store two years ago — the ZBA even granted approval for the business in 2013 — however, the effort was shut down by a lawsuit filed by Huntington attorney Darrin Berger, who worked with residents and the Centerport Harbor Civic Association. According to Berger, both 7-Eleven and the town didn’t properly evaluate the project’s impacts under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, also known as SEQRA.

The New York State Supreme Court agreed that the environmental review was not conducted properly, so progress for the 7-Eleven halted.

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

If approved, the convenience store would be a one-story, freestanding market on a 21,553 square foot parcel. An existing automotive repair shop currently on that land would be demolished to make way for the business. The proposed public hearing was meant for the ZBA to review a request for a special use permit and area variance in order to demolish the auto repair shop.

Dunn Engineering Associates P.C., a town-appointed engineering firm that reviewed the applicant’s traffic analysis, requested that 7-Eleven re-evaluate several points in its application to build a store on the northeast corner of Route 25A and Little Neck Road. Their concerns predominately had to do with traffic safety issues. Dunn Engineering Associates sent their opinions on the proposal to Christopher Modelewski, chairman of the ZBA, this week.

According to a letter from Walter Dunn Jr., president of Dunn Engineering Associates, to Modelewski, the applicant should request accident data in the vicinity of the proposed 7-Eleven site along Route 25A, Little Neck Road and Centerport Road.

“This data should be analyzed to minimize the possibility of traffic safety concerns created due to the addition of the proposed 7-Eleven convenience store,” Dunn said.

Traffic safety issues also included sight distance. Dunn said the engineers performed a sight distance investigation and concluded that 7-Eleven’s traffic engineer should review and verify the adequacy of the two proposed access points and the engineer’s findings.

In a previous letter, the firm noted that Route 25A and Little Neck Road both have considerable horizontal and vertical curvature in vicinity of the proposed site. In order to make sure that the curvature wouldn’t have a detrimental impact on the operations of the proposed access points, sight distance was evaluated at both locations.

While the engineers’ study discovered that sight visibility was limited at a certain section, it was determined that, due to traffic signals, a car would not be going at a fast enough speed for this to be considered dangerous. “Therefore sight distance at this driveway location is considered accurate,” Dunn wrote

7-Eleven has proposed establishing new turning lanes at the intersection if they are approved, however, the letter urged that 7-Eleven redo their capacity analyses for the separate right and left turning lanes and through lanes. Dunn Engineering Associates said that 7-Eleven should reverse their proposal of a separate right turn lane, and a shared left turn/through lane for more successful traffic flow.

The applicant also submitted a proposal to widen the west side of Little Neck Road to provide a southbound approach to Route 25A. This would provide a separate left turn lane and a combined through/right turn lane. Dunn suggested that this proposal be added into the traffic impact study so the town could further examine this possibility.

A final suggestion engineers introduced involves the issue of delivery trucks coming in and out of the area to supply 7-Eleven.

Kenneth Barnes, regional development director for 7-Eleven, made a statement in an affidavit in May, according to Dunn Engineering Associates, that there would be a commitment to restrict the size and movements of delivery trucks.

It was suggested that this commitment be added into the traffic impact study along with a statement, so that the town’s previous concerns that larger sized trucks couldn’t safely maneuver through the site or entrance of the proposed 7-Eleven are mitigated.

Meanwhile, Centerport residents are continuing their fight against the possibility of a new 7-Eleven.

Gloria Wertheimer, president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association, said last week her group feels the project would bring additional traffic to an already congested area and a busy intersection. They also feel that it does not fit in with Centerport at all, a small business, local community driven area.

“It doesn’t belong here, we feel it’s going to draw the wrong type of crowd,” Wertheimer said.

7-Eleven did not return multiple calls seeking comment this week.

Concrete slabs sit in the open lot on Main Street in Smithtown. Photo by Phil Corso

A vacant lot that used to be home to a lumberyard, across the street from Town Hall in Smithtown, is in the Town Board’s crosshairs.

A recent waiver request from the applicant in charge of the 102 W. Main Street property set off a somewhat heated debate at Town Hall, when Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) called out VEA 181st Realty Corp. for what he referred to as a lack of good faith in bettering the space. In the application, developer Salvatore DiCarlo requested the gigantic pile of concrete slabs at the site be ground on the premises in a move that Smithtown Planning Director David Flynn said could reduce truck traffic in the area.

At a work session earlier this month, Flynn told the board that DiCarlo needed to remove the concrete slabs from the property in order to grind them down and install a roughly 5-foot mound of vegetation in its place, as the property moves forward into development. Flynn said there was likely more material than necessary for future building on the property, thus making it difficult for the developer to have to truck materials back and forth between the property and an off-site location.

“Reducing truck traffic is in the public good,” Flynn said, while discussing the waiver request with the Town Board. “The applicant already agreed to abide to conditions beyond what the town code requires. He’s volunteering to slightly more stringent requirements as it is.”

Vecchio, however, was not impressed by the suggestion, and contended that the request to grind concrete on-site was nothing more than an attempt to save money.

“When is he going to build? What is his endeavor here?” Vecchio said. “When does he show some good faith?”

Vecchio said he would not vote in favor of a waiver request for DiCarlo, and instead said it was time for him “to put the pedal to the metal.”

DiCarlo could not be reached for comment.

Flynn said the applicant had received approval to build three-story apartments at the site, with retail space on the ground floors. He also said he was unaware of any specific target date in terms of construction at the property.

DiCarlo, who Flynn said took on the property about 10 years ago, was granted a special exception back in 2013 that allowed him to build apartments on the site, but he has yet to file an updated site plan for construction. The town approved a site plan for demolition in July 2014 and two vacant buildings on the site have been razed over the last several months.

Town Councilman Bob Creighton (R) said the applicant has been trying to build on the site for years, but has encountered countless obstacles preventing him from doing so on the town level. Vecchio, however, fired back that the town’s hands were clean when it came to the inactivity at the spot.

“He hasn’t done anything in good faith,” he said. “I find it horrible. I think that’s a no-no.”

The discussion was tabled upon request from Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) pending a meeting with the property owner, with Creighton ending the debate by calling on his fellow board members to give DiCarlo a chance.

Eight affordable rental housing parcels in the works

Veterans roll up a flag at a press conference on the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative. The county Legislature will vote on a measure to transfer properties to create affordabe housing for homeless veterans at its Sept. 9 meeting. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Suffolk County has gained some footing in the war against veteran homelessness.

Last week, officials announced a proposal to transfer eight tax-defaulted properties over to nonprofit groups that will be charged with developing them into rental housing for homeless veterans or those who are at risk of becoming homeless. The units will be overseen and managed by the non-profit organizations.

The move is part of the Housing our Homeless Heroes legislative initiative, a package of four bills sponsored by Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills). Officials say there are about 750 Long Island veterans who are either homeless or who are expected to be homeless by the end of 2015.

In a phone interview on Monday, Stern said the county Legislature would vote on the transfer of the properties at its Sept. 9 meeting. He said he expects the resolution, which he is co-sponsoring with County Executive Steve Bellone (D), to gain unanimous support.

Stern, who is the chairman of the county’s Veterans and Seniors Committee, said in addition to housing resources, the veterans will receive additional services through these nonprofits, such as job training and placement; primary and mental health care; disability management and health care coordination; family counseling; financial training and substance abuse services.

“The Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative is the housing part of providing assistance to our veterans and families,” Stern said. “But it can never be just about four walls and a roof.”

Once transferred, the nonprofits would foot the construction bill through roughly $10 million in state and federal grant funding available for such projects, Stern said. Funding for the construction will be provided in part from the New York State Homeless Housing Assistance Program and United States Department of Housing and Urban Development HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

Two parcels in Central Islip will be transferred to the Concern for Independent Living for the construction of three single-family homes. Bay Shore-based United Veterans Beacon House has proposed to rehabilitate an existing home on a Copiague parcel, and build a single-family unit on a Yaphank parcel.

In addition, the Association for Mental Health and Wellness is proposing to build a new four-bedroom house for three senior disabled veterans and a live-in house manager on two parcels in Mastic; rehabilitate a house in Riverhead for one veteran family; and build a new set of four, single room occupancies for veterans on a parcel in Medford.

The Legislature approved the Housing our Homeless Heroes initiative last year, and Bellone signed the legislation into law just days before Christmas. The four laws tackle the issue of veteran homelessness from different angles — one establishes a partnership between agencies and community advocates that serve veterans and their families and helps them set up an informational web portal on the county’s website to direct them to services available across all levels of government and within the nonprofit sector. Another maximizes access to available housing for veterans. The third amended the county’s human rights law by adding veterans as a group of individuals protected against discrimination in housing and employment opportunities. The last bill will require a veteran services officer to work at the county’s Department of Social Services on a regular basis. The officers must be veterans as well, in order to establish a peer-to-peer relationship between those they are helping.

“As an agency committed to ensuring empowering people to overcome the impact of health and mental health disabilities, it is our intent to devote these houses to assist male and female veterans who have been affected by service-connected and post-service transition mental health challenges,” Michael Stoltz, chief executive officer of the Association for Mental Health and Wellness said in a statement. “I thank Suffolk County for partnering with our organization to further assist us in supporting our veterans.”