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Joseph Bollhofer

The Flowerfield Fairgrounds in St. James. File photo by Heidi Sutton

By Sabrina Artusa

The eventual fate of Flowerfield Fairgrounds continues to be uncertain, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is moving to acquire the property. In November, the DEC ordered an appraisal of the 63-acre Flowerfield site.

Since Gyrodyne, a property management company, started moving forward with a subdivision proposal to turn the fairgrounds into an updated layout suitable for development, St. James residents protested its advancement, stressing concerns over traffic, overdevelopment and the effects on Stony Brook Harbor. 

The DEC is expected to complete the evaluation of the property this year, according to Judith Ogden, board member of the Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. She said, “Everything is moving along the way we would hope.”

Gyrodyne applied to create industrial lots and a new sewage treatment lot in 2022. 

Ogden and Joseph Bollhofer, also a board member of the coalition, wrote on the fairgrouds website, “We believe that we are well on our way to preserving the character of our community by preventing these massive development projects that would forever change our way of life. This includes some extremely negative consequences, among them intolerable traffic increases, groundwater and harbor contamination and the destruction of the North Country Road historic and scenic corridor.”

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said that he had no objection to the DEC acquiring the property from Gyrodyne, thus allowing the DEC to move forward. The DEC may use some of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund to pay for the acquisition. 

The coalition created a recommended plan for the property, which includes allotted area for commercial development and around 45 acres for open space.

“The first step is to save the undeveloped land, but we also have dreams and hopes for the developed land,” Ogden said. The coalition represents people who want to defend the fairgrounds from overdevelopment, although part of the property is already developed.

In April 2022, the coalition, the Village of the Head of the Harbor and 23 homeowners filed a lawsuit against Gyrodyne, the Town of Smithtown and the Smithtown Planning Board. The lawsuit has stalled the progression of Gyrodyne’s applications. 

Ogden said that many of the petitioners were removed by the judge, but that the lawsuit is advancing: 

“The ball is in [Gyrodyne’s] lap now … there is going to be some movement going forward.” 

The Timothy House property on North Country Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Residents in the Village of Head of the Harbor and the surrounding area will again be able to express their opinions Aug. 16 regarding a proposed church at 481 North Country Road.

The Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, also known as the Monastery of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, has owned the historic Timothy House since 2018 and is proposing a plan to construct a house of worship on the property and 36-space parking lot. A special use permit is needed to proceed with any construction.

At the June 21 village meeting, Joseph Buzzell, the monastery’s Melville-based attorney, explained that the proposed church building, with a planned maximum occupancy of 282 people, would not be a parish church but a monastery church. He said while people outside of the monastery at times decided to worship with the monks, the monastery is not looking to expand its congregation. 

Currently, the monks hold services inside Timothy House. According to village code, land, buildings and major landscaping on either side of 25A, also known as North Country Road, are declared a historic area if they extend to a depth of 500 feet within the village. In addition to the village code, covenants and restrictions were placed on the deed by historian and previous owner Barbara Van Liew in 1973 and 1997.

At previous village meetings, while some residents said they had no concerns, others were worried that the construction of a church and the addition of a parking lot may degrade the historical integrity of the property and the landscape.

In a phone interview, Buzzell said the monastery is not modifying the Timothy House. He said the monks have already paid more than $340,000 in maintenance and repairs on the structure.

Buzzell said the plans for the church had been changed twice to move it from the front of the property toward the back. He said there would be no widening of the driveway and no new lighting; however, he said the entrance posts would have to be moved farther apart.

He said the monks respect the historical integrity of the home and property, but he feels those who are against construction “don’t seem to want to take into consideration what’s been done,” he said.

The lawyer said the monastery being awarded the special exception permit is important.

“This action ensures the preservation of the house,” he said, adding Van Liew wouldn’t want to see the house put at risk.


In a July 20, 2023, letter to Mayor Douglas Dahgard from Robert O’Shea, village building inspector, posted on the village’s website, the letter writer said he met with Father Vasileios Willard, deputy abbott, at the Timothy House for a tour. 

He said Willard pointed out some trees he would like to be removed, which O’Shea wrote an arborist will be submitting a report on the condition of the trees. In the letter, the building inspector stated that the grounds were properly maintained according to village and state codes.

Inside the house, new water heaters, waterproofing of basement walls, and structural repairs in the basement, first and second floors were among the new work done, according to O’Shea. 

He wrote the structure was in “good overall condition and is well-maintained.”

The State Historic Preservation Office also reviewed the monastery’s plans and found there would be no adverse effects on the property, but many, including village historian Leighton Coleman III, said they are concerned because a representative from SHPO didn’t visit and survey the property.

Covenants and restrictions

Among those who have criticized the proposed construction to the property has been St. James-based attorney Joseph Bollhofer, chair of the village’s zoning board of appeals. In an email to TBR News Media, he said, in addition to violating the covenants and restrictions placed by Van Liew, it “would violate various provisions of the village code, having to do with a special exception permit.”

At the June 21 meeting, Buzzell said his clients were not aware of the 1973 covenants, something that Bollhofer said would be part of a title search.

When asked by TBR about the comment, Buzzell said that the 1973 covenants did not turn up in the monastery’s title search in 2018 when the property was purchased. The attorney feels that the 1997 document amended and replaced the 1973 document.

But Bollhofer said the 1997 conventants wouldn’t replace or supersede the 1973 document.

“In every case, where one document supersedes or amends another, it must specifically state that,” Bollhofer said, adding, “Both documents state that they ‘run with the land’ and are binding upon all future owners.”

Traffic analysis

In a letter dated Aug. 2, Aaron Machtay, transportation project manager with Hauppauge-based civil engineering firm VHB, presented traffic and parking recommendations to Village Counsel Philip Butler after reviewing a traffic statement by Atlantic Traffic and Design prepared for the monastery earlier this year, and a site plan from architect Mark Wittenberg that was dated Aug. 30, 2022.

According to the letter, despite prior testimony that the driveway will remain at its 18-foot width, VHB suggested that the driveway be evaluated to see if it can accommodate two-way traffic. 

The business also suggested that the previous traffic statement was a conservative estimate and “projections for the future activity should be prepared based on the observed demand and compared against thresholds established for a significant impact.”

Among other suggestions, the letter stated that parking observations need to be reconciled “to present the actual peak parking demand expected for the site,” and due to the site driveway being located across and offset from the Route 25A and Northern Boulevard intersection, an analysis for the three-year crash experience should be provided, focusing on the three-year period before the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

The Village of Head of the Harbor will hold its next meeting and the public hearing Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. Village Hall is located at 500 N. Country Rd, St. James.

By Chris Mellides

[email protected]

Concerned local property owners were joined by members of Saint James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and other representatives to block the planned subdivision by Gyrodyne to repurpose the 63-acre Flowerfield site. A legal challenge was filed April 26 to overturn the March 30 preliminary subdivision approval by the Town of Smithtown Planning Board.

The application proposal from Gyrodyne included a multistory 125-room hotel along with 250 assisted living housing units, 175,000 square feet of office space, parking to accommodate over 2,000 cars and a 7-acre sewage plant. 

Among those who spoke at Tuesday’s press conference on the corner of Mills Pond Road and Route 25A outside of Flowerfield were local attorney Joseph Bollhofer; Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook); legal counselor E. Christopher Murray; and Judy Ogden, Head of the Harbor village trustee and neighborhood preservation coalition spokesperson. 

“Our lawsuit has been filed and the decision to file this litigation against the Smithtown government was not made lightly,” Bollhofer said. “Like many of you, I love this town. I grew up here, my wife was born in St. James. In the 1970s, I did my Eagle Scout project for the benefit of the people in this town.”

Bollhofer went on to say that the “Smithtown government is doing a very good job” yet its handling of the Gyrodyne application has been bungled. “It’s been our hope that we are able to preserve this property,” he added. “We’ve been doing our best to get the people involved with this to come together to try and find a way to get the money to pay Gyrodyne fair compensation for this open space.”

Representing Three Village Civic Association was Herb Mones. “Smithtown has to go back and review its determinations on this property,” he said, while also saying that in the opinion of many in the civic association, the Town of Smithtown did not pay close enough attention to the law that required them to “carefully review what the buildout would mean to the surrounding community.”

Living just 600 feet up the road from Flowerfield, Ogden spoke on behalf of residents in the communities of both St. James and Head of the Harbor. Together, Ogden said community members have been speaking publicly against the Gyrodyne subdivision application for the past two years.

“We’ve been speaking at public forums, at Zoom meetings, writing letters and sending emails at every opportunity that has been provided to express our concerns with the proposed Gyrodyne megadevelopment,” she said. “But no matter what we say or how many people show up, our voices have been ignored.”

For more than a year, opponents to the subdivision application have said that the environmental impacts of changes Gyrodyne made to its original plan after the initial environmental review was completed have not been evaluated and “did not comply with state law,” according to a press release issued on the day of the event.

“The role of government is to show leadership, which represents all people of the community and follows a comprehensive plan steering development in the right direction, while preserving and enhancing the nature of our community and natural resources,” said Ogden.