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Brookhaven IDA

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Conifer’s revised design plans for the Port Jefferson Crossing apartment complex were approved Sept. 17 after multiple design changes over the past several months. Photo from planning board meeting

The Village of Port Jefferson has set a number to what an upcoming apartment complex project is worth for recreational land.

Officials voted to set the recreational parkland fee for Port Jefferson Crossing at $1,500 per unit at 45 units for a total of $67,500. Village officials said they are setting aside the funds specifically for developing Upper Port even further.

Mayor Margot Garant said they would be putting those funds in a special account to be used for revitalizing the up-the-hill portions of the village, which has been a largely blighted area for several years. All trustees agreed those funds should be used to develop uptown. Vice Mayor Stan Loucks suggested it could be for new recreational space in the Highland area of the village.

The project currently has plans for three floors, with the first floor being 3,200 square feet of retail and the next two containing 37 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments. The front part of the project will take up 112 lineal feet of frontage on Main Street.

Village Attorney Brian Egan said Conifer, the company behind Port Jefferson Crossing, has sent a letter to the effect of making some kind of donation to the village equivalent to the fee, but as of right now, the money is already in the village’s hands.

Alison LaPointe, special village attorney to the Building and Planning Department, previously told TBR News Media the payment in lieu of parking fee for the C-2 district, where Crossing resides, has been set at $4,000 per space via a 2018 resolution.

Parkland fees are set by the board of trustees on a case-by-case basis. The planning board has to approve the fee.

Conifer representatives have previously told the village planning board they were requesting officials consider renovated sidewalks and other amenities in place of the parkland fee. Officials have previously granted another The Shipyard, an apartment complex in downtown Port Jeff, a reduced parkland fee because of patio space and other open amenities included in the complex, though it was later confirmed the space was inaccessible to the public. The village changed its code in September of last year to excise rooftop decks, patios and other common areas not accessible to the general public from being considered for reduced or eliminated parkland fee.

Village Trustee Bruce Miller, who opposed The Shipyard’s reduced fee in 2018, said he hoped the village wasn’t going down the same road again. Garant agreed, saying “that’s why we’re here.”

Port Jefferson Crossing has already received an agreement with the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency for an estimated $5.2 million mortgage tax exemption for help in demolishing the current building and a $66,236 Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement starting in 2023-24. They join many of the other new apartment developments that have received PILOT agreements, including The Brookport and the Overbay Apartments developments. 

IDA documents also show they anticipate 1.5 employees will be needed at the new site, though that doesn’t include what businesses may take up space on the first floor facing the street.

Garant also said at the Nov. 16 meeting she was meeting with representatives of the Long Island Rail Road about, among other things, potentially making the parking lot metered. This would allow a revitalized upper port to be used during times in the evening much less trafficked by commuters for people to visit any businesses.

In addition, the village has to work with the LIRR on designing Station Street, which will be located just south of Conifer’s project. 

Another apartment development by the Gitto Group is looking to start up at the corner of Main Street and North Country Road, where the PJ Lobster House currently stands.

Heatherwood developers are asking the Brookhaven IDA to reconsider its revised tax benefits package. Photo by David Luces

After being rejected for a tax benefits package from the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency in August, the developer for the Heatherwood Golf Club has now proposed to the agency a revised payment in lieu of taxes package.

Under the revised 13-year package presented to the IDA board Nov. 19, the assessed value of the development would be phased in at a faster rate during years 4-13, according to the developer. In turn, the PlLOT payments would come out to more than $9.8 million, an increase of over $1.4 million compared to the initial tax benefit package they proposed.

In a Sept. 16 letter sent to the Brookhaven IDA, Peter Curry, a Uniondale-based lawyer representing Heatherwood Golf & Villas LLC, reiterated Heatherwood can’t finance and develop the project without the assistance of the agency.

Due to the significant increase in construction costs from $46.6 million to about $55 million, Curry said the developer is willing to decrease the amount of financial assistance required and pay the additional $1.4 million-plus in PILOT payments in hopes that the IDA would reconsider accepting the application.

Community members and civic groups present at the Nov. 19 public hearing argued that even despite the revised PILOT package, the developer’s application for the project was virtually the same as it was in August, and wondered how it could be up for reconsideration again without any major changes.

“Are you kidding me?” said an exasperated Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee. “If anything, this is a self-inflicted wound by a private corporation, but now it is trying its very best to saddle the taxpayers with some type of remedy.”

Mones said Heatherwood wants the taxpayers to foot the bill of paying the future of their taxes and mortgage fees on the project.

“It’s pig feeding at the trough. For a corporation to try to do this is an outrage to the public,” he said.

“It’s pig feeding at the trough. For a corporation to try to do this is an outrage to the public.”

– Herb Mones

He added that Heatherwood has reaped millions when the Town of Brookhaven zoning board approved a crucial zone change in 2014 that allowed for apartments on the golf course property despite overwhelming community opposition.

“But that’s not enough, now they’ve come back for more,” Mones said. “Do I blame them? No, I don’t blame then, but I will blame you if you give them relief this way.”

Other concerns brought up previously have been the negative impacts the tax breaks could have on local school districts as well as increase traffic congestion at the intersection of Route 347 and Arrowhead Lane in South Setauket.

Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said nothing has changed since the August rejection.

“The only thing that changed is that it is going to cost more to build the project,” he said. “There’s no reason that the IDA with six jobs being offered [for the project] should even allow [the developer] to come back within two months of their turndown. It’s a joke.”

IDA board members back in August said six jobs wasn’t enough to grant the benefits packages.

Pitti said unless the application showed that the project would bring a substantial number of jobs into the community added on to the people that already work there, the developer shouldn’t be allowed to go forward.

“I do a lot of things at Town Hall and two words I hear a lot are ‘precedent and perception,’” he said to the IDA board. “The precedent you guys are setting here is sad because if a company can come back two months later and present the same exact thing and hope it can get it by the board — that’s where the perception comes in. What has changed in two months that the vote should change from negative to positive?”

IDA officials stated they would not comment to the public nor reporters after the public hearing.

At the conclusion of the hearing, IDA officials said the application could be brought up at its board meeting Dec. 2. It would be up to the board members to decide if they want to vote on the application at that time or they could push the vote into 2020.

 

The Shoreham power plant on North Country Road provides peak power to the community and payments in lieu of taxes to the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo from Jason White

A Brookhaven organization recently saved energy in the most literal sense, and a reliable revenue stream too.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency (IDA) announced Nov. 27 it prevented the shutdown of an electric-generating plant in Shoreham, which provides peak power to the community and is expected to contribute $852,000 in property taxes or payments in lieu of taxes, commonly known as PILOTs, to the Shoreham-Wading River school district this year.

Brookhaven’s business arm has entered into a new, 20-year PILOT agreement with owners of the 90 megawatt, jet-fueled facility located on 10 acres of land on North Country Road, leased by the Long Island Power Authority. The facility’s previous PILOT and power purchase agreement between LIPA and Brookhaven expired this past August after 15 years.

In the proposal for the PILOT, which became the adopted policy when it was approved by the IDA in January 2017, projected gradual benefits range from $1.2 million in its first year to $1.7 million in its 20th.

The partnership began in September 2016 when members of J-Power USA — owners of the facility since 2010 — realized the expired pact would bring about a 33 percent reduction in revenue and a 50 percent reduction in economic benefits. The members were also told by LIPA representatives that the nonprofit would not be involved in negotiating a new PILOT.

“We wanted to see if Brookhaven would be able to offer a new PILOT that would  allow us to remain financially viable and our agreement has removed that big uncertainty,” said Jason White, director of asset management at the J-Power Shoreham branch. “Our facility uses General Electric combustion
turbines and while it doesn’t operate a lot, it’s important to the electric grid for stability purposes. It’s maintained so that it can respond very quickly if it’s called upon.”

White said although there had to be consideration to disassemble the power plant and move off Long Island in the case an agreement couldn’t be reached, it wouldn’t be a simple process, and the facility’s six
employees live close by.

“Our preference all along was to continue to operate the plant site and to continue to be a contributor to the local community,” White said.

By securing the power plant’s place in Shoreham, revenue is boosted for the school district, which relies heavily on it as a source of both energy and property tax revenue.

“I am pleased that we have been able to close on this new agreement with J-Power,” said Frederick Braun, chairman of the IDA. “Had we been unable to keep this plant from moving off Long Island with this new agreement, the Shoreham School District and other taxing jurisdictions would receive no payments at all, resulting in an even larger loss to those taxing jurisdictions.

The school district, which included the finalization of $852,000 in PILOT revenue in its Revised and Lowered Expenditure Budget & Tax Levy in October, approved the agreement in a resolution during a board meeting last Jan. 10.

“Be it resolved that the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District supports the proposed financial assistance contemplated by the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency in connection with the J-Power Peaker Plant,” the letter read.

Lisa Mulligan, the IDA’s chief executive officer, said she had been in contact with the district’s board of education since meetings began with J-Power “as they were the most impacted by this.”

“We didn’t want to pursue something if they were not interested in it,” Mulligan said. “But the board wrote to us and told us they were … I think it’s important to bring money into the school district and also provide this power to residents when it’s needed.”

The Overbay apartments are planned for the former Islander Boat Center on West Broadway, above. File photo

The developer of a controversial apartment complex planned for Port Jefferson’s West Broadway may get financial assistance to help build it.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency announced last week that it had accepted an application for consideration from Hauppauge-based Overbay LLC, which has approval from the Port Jefferson Village Planning Board to construct two 35-foot buildings containing 52 rental apartments.

Overbay is owned by North Shore developer Jim Tsunis.

Some residents have spoken against the project, slated for the corner of Brook Road at the former Islander Boat Center property, with concerns about increased traffic and density. Part of their resistance is linked to the fact that another apartment complex called the Residences at Port Jefferson — a 112-unit building — is due to go up next door at the corner of West Broadway and Barnum Avenue, in the place of the former Heritage Inn. TRITEC Real Estate Company in East Setauket is leading that development.

“We don’t want to be urbanized,” resident Phil Griffith said at a public hearing earlier this year. “It is just too much.”

In both projects, neither of which required variances for approval, parking will be contained underneath the apartments and the housing will replace longtime community eyesores at village’s western entry point.

According to the IDA, which aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area, it will consider Overbay’s application for financial assistance over the coming few months and will hold a public hearing on the matter.

“We’re pleased to consider this application for this project, which will grow the much-needed supply of rental housing near to Stony Brook University and Port Jefferson’s Mather and St. Charles hospitals,” IDA Chairman Fred Braun said in a press release.

The three-story apartment buildings are expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 construction jobs over a two-year period, the IDA said. Rents could range from $1,800 to $2,200.

There is no commercial component to the Overbay project, though there had been commercial space included in previous proposals for the site.

The IDA has already assisted another apartment project in the area this year, the Rail Realty complex along Texaco Avenue in upper Port. That project, dubbed the Hills at Port Jefferson, will include two three-story buildings for a total of 74 rentals — a mixture of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — and underground parking.