Tags Posts tagged with "Comprehensive Plan"

Comprehensive Plan

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An aerial view of Smithtown captures the Smithtown Main Street area. Photo from Town of Smithtown

By Chris Cumella

Updates on the Town of Smithtown’s upcoming master plan were at the forefront of discussions during the Town Board meeting held virtually Dec. 15.

The board and H2M Architects & Engineers collaborated during the meeting as a means of addressing the town’s Comprehensive Plan, a development project in the works of improving facilities, outdoor spaces and town amenities.

A draft of the Comprehensive Plan — a town infrastructure revival over several different areas in the vicinity — was presented by H2M planning representative Jeffrey Janota. He said it was “an enjoyable project, and I want to thank all the residents that came during the public outreach.”

He explained that the Comprehensive Plan was designed to revamp specific downtown areas of Suffolk County that the Town Board deemed necessary. Among those locations being considered in alignment with the Comprehensive Plan were Smithtown proper, Kings Park and St. James.

Those downtowns will be the main demographics for new placements of office spaces, increased retail stores and transit-oriented development, according to Janota. The necessity of reviving the downtown areas come in response to public opinion.

In downtown Smithtown, 34% of polltakers see the community as average, 32% below average and 17% thinking it is poor. Downtown Kings Park and downtown St. James saw similar results.

“The public came out and met with us, and want to make sure that their concerns are heard,” Janota said.

When presenting the topic of improving Smithtown’s mobility, a survey outreach was utilized again to receive direct answers from the community. A majority, 75% of those surveyed, said they wish to see improvement in biking and walking conditions. Other major factors in mobility improvement included adding more parking spaces, increasing streetscape amenities, better traffic signals and lights, and more.

As Janota recapped how the town could enhance existing park amenities, he suggested adding additional play elements such as jungle gyms and swing sets while maintaining the current ones to withstand upcoming brutal weather conditions. H2M’s statistics detail that 12% of Smithtown residents use the parks for the playgrounds and swings.

In addition to keeping the youth content, H2M would set their sights on attracting residents who use parks for outdoor recreational activities by improving pathway quality and building new ones. Their data tells that a larger portion of citizens, 17%, make up those who use the parks for walking and running for exercise.

Based on a New York State recreation guide survey, the Town Board’s greatest number of requests were directed toward the need for expanded and modernized amenities along with revamped facilities in parks, such as parking and restrooms.

As well as preserving the existing parks, H2M unveiled their plans to create new ones, and presented a map of five scattered pinpoints soon to be outdoor spaces. On the list were proposed parks at Half Hollow Road in Commack; Donald Drive and Hillside-Gramercy Gardens in Kings Park; also 3rd Street and Astor Avenue in St. James.

Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) encouraged Smithtown residents to be active in their board meetings by responding to the board’s outreach programs when possible.

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Trustee Bruce Miller says despite a vote in favor of the document on Monday, he opposes the village’s comprehensive plan. Photo by Elana Glowatz

After years of work and arguments, Port Jefferson’s controversial village development plan has become final.

The board of trustees unanimously adopted the comprehensive plan at a meeting on Monday, but Trustee Bruce Miller said in an interview the following morning that he plans to retroactively change his vote at the next board meeting.

Miller said he got “bogged down” during the board’s discussion about its agenda items, and didn’t mean to vote in favor of adopting the plan.

The comprehensive plan is a guideline for future development in Port Jefferson Village, largely focusing on the waterfront commercial area downtown and the short but troubled uptown corridor that runs between North Country Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. It aims, for instance, to revitalize upper Port by making it more pedestrian-friendly and bringing in more apartments. Downtown, the plan includes adding recreational and green space near the water and widening Main Street.

Residents and former members of the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, with the support of Miller, have long sparred with the administration over the plan, citing fears that it would add too much density to what they want to be a quaint village, snarl traffic even further on busy roads and bring in more cars than there is space to park them.

Miller echoed those concerns on Tuesday, and said he also opposes adopting the plan for procedural reasons — he said he hasn’t yet seen a findings statement, which is a document certifying that the village met the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act in its study of the plan’s environmental impact.

The village board approved that findings statement at Monday’s meeting.

Still, there have been voices of support for the plan, including from the other four board members and from other residents. And recent approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission was the final stamp the village needed before adopting it.

While the commission issued a list of recommendations relating to the plan’s impact on traffic, density, taxes and parking, the village sent a response letter in which it disagreed that more study was required on most of those items. To the Planning Commission’s suggestion, for example, that the village conduct “an analysis of the impacts of increased rental housing” in Port Jefferson, the village responded in May that “it is unclear how the type of ownership status of housing units alone would impact community character, and the suggestion that because a property is a rental property that it would then have a negative impact on the community is unfounded.”

The village’s response also noted that the apartments would likely serve single adults and couples without children, which is “the same demographic that … Long Island is seeking to retain, as the young contribute to our workforce and the [retirement-aged residents] continue to enjoy recreation and spend using their discretionary income.”

Suffolk County Planning Director Sarah Lansdale wrote in an email later last month that the village gave the issues “proper procedural review” and took “a hard look at the issues raised by the commission.”

Officials broke ground Monday morning on a housing complex many hope will spur redevelopment in uptown Port Jefferson.

After four years of plans and approvals, developer Rail Realty LLC can get started on demolishing homes and buildings along Texaco Avenue to make way for 74 rental apartments, a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. The Hills at Port Jefferson apartments will be constructed as two three-story buildings on several parcels along that street: One building will take the place of two vacant houses and the former Port Jeff Auto Spa car wash on the north half of Texaco, close to Sheep Pasture Road; while the other will be built in what is now a grassy field at the intersection with Linden Place. Resident parking will be underground, with a final parcel on the south side of Texaco and Linden, currently holding Stony Brook Electric Inc., to be used for additional parking.

Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Ryan Gitto arrives at a groundbreaking ceremony in upper Port Jefferson prepared to work. Photo by Elana Glowatz

“This is the beginning of a renaissance and a jumpstart to upper Port Jefferson,” Rail Realty principal Tony Gitto said at the groundbreaking ceremony, after digging into the earth at the grassy field.

The shovel work was followed up on the car wash property next door, where Mayor Margot Garant climbed into an excavator and took the first crack at taking apart the building there. Concrete crunched as she closed the vehicle’s claws over a corner of roof and ripped it away from the rest of the building.

“I can get used to this,” she shouted from the operator seat.

Garant said that the apartment project will be “so important” to upper Port revitalization efforts.

The village has been working to enhance that troubled area around Main Street between North Country Road/Sheep Pasture Road and the Long Island Rail Road tracks. An entire section of the village’s draft comprehensive plan is devoted to upper Port, with recommendations geared toward improving quality of life, making it more pedestrian-friendly and attracting developers and visitors.

Rail Realty got final village approval on its project last year. Under the conditions of that approval, the developer will make improvements to a pocket park near the apartments and improve traffic flow in the area by redesigning the intersection of Main Street and Sheep Pasture Road.

Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz
Tony Gitto breaks ground at the site of his upcoming apartment complex. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The housing complex will be constructed in phases, with the first phase being the northern apartment building, the second being the other building, and the third being the parking area across Linden Place.

The Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency gave financial assistance to Rail Realty on the project, including sales tax exemptions on construction items, a mortgage tax exemption and a 10-year property tax abatement through which the owner will pay taxes on roughly the current value of the site, as opposed to the increased value of the property once work is complete.

The IDA aims to boost the economy within Brookhaven Town by assisting businesses in locating or expanding in the area.

IDA Chairman Fred Braun said Monday, “Cleaning up a semi-blighted area is the first step,” and Long Island needs rentals both in the area of Stony Brook University and elsewhere.