Smithtown planning board gives Gyrodyne first green light

Smithtown planning board gives Gyrodyne first green light

Local citizens are concerned that a proposed sewage plant on the Gyrodyne property in St. James will negatively affect local waterways. Photo by Chrissy Swain

The Town of Smithtown’s Planning Board voted unanimously March 30 to give Gyrodyne preliminary subdivision approval for its property located on Route 25A in St. James.

Before the company receives final subdivision approval from town officials, which would then allow development on the property, it must secure approvals from Suffolk County Department of Health Services and Department of Public Works, New York State Department of Transportation and final subdivision map approval from Smithtown, according to a press release from Gyrodyne. 

The pending approvals require the company to provide additional engineering analysis due to a proposed sewage treatment plant, traffic changes on local roads, storm drainage and more on the property known as Flowerfield.

The March 30 Planning Board vote came after nearly two-and-a-half hours of testimony from Smithtown residents as well as Head of the Harbor Mayor Douglas Dahlgard and Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) during a Zoom public hearing. Many have been against the proposed development of the 75-acre parcel.

Opponents have cited concerns about the possibility of excessive traffic on Route 25A, the proposed sewage plant dumping sewage effluent into Stony Brook Harbor and have criticized the town’s environmental review, calling it flawed. In addition to local criticism of the current proposed plan, the community advocacy group St. James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition has suggested an alternative plan and are planning to file a lawsuit, which could delay the current process.

Gyrodyne plans to divide its land into lots that can be used for, in addition to a sewage plant, a hotel, assisted living facility and medical offices. There are currently no prospective buyers.

Joseph Bollhofer, a lawyer and chair of the Head of the Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals, spoke during the Zoom hearing. He said in addition to traffic and environmental concerns that could occur due to development on the Gyrodyne parcel, he is also worried about other properties in the vicinity of Flowerfield that could be developed and the any buildout of Stony Brook University Research and Development Park.

“All of these properties essentially are contiguous with Gyrodyne’s parcel right in the middle,” he said. “Gyrodyne’s application cannot and should not be evaluated as if these other properties and their likely development will not impact traffic or other issues.”

He and others have said the environmental impact statement conflicts with the town’s draft master plan, citing that the plan calls to enhance the historic, cultural and architectural character of Smithtown. The plan also calls for development in existing downtown areas and heavily traveled highway corridors. Many residents have said the Route 25A property does not meet those requirements. According to a town zone study, the hamlet of St. James has only 1.6% of open space and the rest of Smithtown has an average of 18%, which opponents say is an additional reason the development goes against the draft master plan.

Bollhofer said that a few people have been working for more than two years to create a plan where Gyrodyne would be compensated for the parcel and development would be avoided, and it has received support from state and county elected officials.

“I urge town officials with authority to join with those state and county officials, and private parties who are also interested in this, and concentrate their efforts on finding the money to compensate Gyrodyne for its property and make what I consider to be the only logical solution of reality — preservation of the open space,” Bollhofer said.

Dahlgard said during the public hearing that Gyrodyne being zoned for industrial use is wrong and the Village of Head of the Harbor will be affected negatively as the company is liquidated.

“The town as the lead agency on this application has the responsibility to protect our community’s character,” he said. “We asked the members of the Planning Board to be open minded on this issue, follow the town’s draft master plan that promotes retaining open space and maintaining the character of a community. I speak to you as a neighbor, as a resident of both the Town of Smithtown and the Village of Head of the Harbor.”

Matthew Aracich, president of the Building and Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties, spoke in favor of the proposed subdivision. He said the council represents 65,000 members, with many of them living in St. James and Smithtown. Aracich said the proposed development represents hundreds of jobs in the future that will provide not only salaries but pensions and health care.

He added senior housing is important on Long Island as the available units in Suffolk and Nassau counties are insufficient.

“We want to keep people who have lived here their whole life and want to continue to live here to see their grandchildren and their children,” he said. “We have to make sure projects like these are both sustainable and able to be built.” 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said there are many people in his town “who are adamantly opposed to this development.”

He said one of the main concerns is that Route 25A and Stony Brook Road cannot handle any more traffic. While he agrees in some ways with Aracich, he said development is not fitting for the particular area.

“Not every square inch of Suffolk County needs to be developed, and this is one area that doesn’t need to be developed to the maximum,” Romaine said.

The Brookhaven supervisor said that he agreed with many Smithtown residents that the proposed development goes against the town’s draft master plan, and he feels the traffic and environmental impact reviews have been insufficient.

He added 300 feet from the property is the Stony Brook Historic District and therefore Brookhaven resources will be used by those traveling to and from the development, and Stony Brook Harbor would be in jeopardy due to the sewage treatment plant.

Natalie Weinstein, a St. James business owner since 1985 and resident since 1973, said in earlier years the town’s administration wasn’t open to progress but the new one since 2017 has been. Weinstein added that no matter how residents feel about the plan, they all love St. James.

“I think that we all are looking at it from a different vantage point,” she said. “I, as a business owner and someone who has been actively involved in creating change in the Lake Avenue historic business district, sees the value of things that occur that are well controlled and well documented.”

Nicole Garguilo, Smithtown public information officer, said in a phone interview, that it’s important to remember the plan is conceptual in order to determine the possible impacts if the property was developed. The preliminary subdivision application approval is just the beginning of the process as no development is approved or pending at this time.

Once a lot is bought, the owners will also be required to go through the land use process, which will include presenting site plans and going through the environmental process.

She added it could be up to six months for Gyrodyne to file its final application with the town.

Updated April 6 to reflect comments from public hearing.