The Fort Salonga Association has been divided over rezoning the Indian Hills Country Club, and at the annual general meeting in January members gathered to voice opinions on the board’s decision to send a letter to Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) supporting the rezoning. The members also voted to keep current President Frank Capaccio in power, instead of replacing him with challenger Joan Bubaris.
Earlier this year, Jim Tsunis, of the real estate developer The Northwind Group, applied to Huntington Town to change the zoning for the property from 1-acre single family to open space cluster district, in the hopes of building homes on the property.
In November, the FSA board voted to support the proposal in order to preserve the golf course for the residents of Fort Salonga.
Capaccio wrote a letter to members explaining why the board reached the decision.
“Our organization, for 70 years, has always been an advocate for what is best for the community at large,” Capaccio said in the letter. “While some feel the golf course should remain untouched and others feel 100-plus single family homes are a better alternative than townhouses, we disagree. The main purpose of establishing our organization was to preserve the quality of life and open space in our hamlet. Preserving the golf course does this.”
At the Jan. 31 meeting, more than 150 members gathered to weigh in, with residents both criticizing Capaccio for what they saw as a rash decision and others supporting the board’s action.
“We felt the preservation of open space was the best thing for the community,” Capaccio repeated at the meeting, before being interrupted by a resident who asked why there wasn’t a forum for residents to voice their opinions on this issue.
“The issue was the process, not just the decision, but the way this was slipped through,” one member said.
Capaccio said there were a number of meetings held to discuss this issue, including meetings with Petrone, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association and other communities that developed properties like this — but members argued they weren’t public.
Members questioned why the board made a decision before the environmental study was completed.
“The environmental study is going to be either a positive declaration or a negative declaration,” Capaccio said. “No one can determine or change the outcome of that. If it fails the environmental study nothing can be done.”
Members continued to press.
“So then why not wait until it’s completed?” one attendee asked. “You’re supposed to represent us. We need a new president.”
Capaccio answered that claim.
“Let’s see how many people feel that way,” he said. “We’ll know tomorrow.”
In the end the majority of the FSA did not want new leadership, as Capaccio was voted in for a second term with 95 votes to Bubaris’ 83. The organization hired an independent accountant to tally the votes to ensure there was no wrongdoing.
Bubaris said a new voice was needed to lead the association in the right direction.
“[Capaccio] has not been much of a leader, he’s been more of a dictator,” she said in a phone interview. “This election had to do with the lack of transparency and the behind the scenes decisions that have been made.”
Bubaris said she felt she needed to step up and run for president because there wasn’t a working board anymore, and she feared the organization wouldn’t make it another year.
Since the election results were posted, Vice President Will Safer has resigned from his post, as has board member William Berg, according to Bubaris. She also said she would resign as of Tuesday night’s meeting.
“It’s really disappointing that this behavior is being accepted — but I don’t accept it,” Bubaris said. “He [Capaccio] seems to have his own agenda and to my surprise, board members back him.”
Bubaris said she anticipates the open seats will be filled with like-minded people which is detrimental to the FSA as well.
“It’s just not a working board,” she said. “It needs to be brought into the 21st century with open discussions.”
The proposal includes plans to build 108 townhomes and two cottages in several areas on the golf course. Northwind refers to the townhomes as houses for a 55-and-over community, and said their plan will preserve 120 of the 143 acres at Indian Hills, won’t impact the views of the club from Breeze Hill Road and Fresh Pond Road, and will preserve the character of the neighborhood.