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SEQRA

Developers of the Gyrodyne complex in St. James are moving forward with plans to subdivide and potentially develop the 75-acre site known as Flowerfield. The Town of Smithtown Planning Board will consider a nine-lot subdivision for the complex at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“The Town Environmental has found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be complete and is preparing a resolution for the Planning Board to accept the DEIS as complete at their next meeting on Dec. 11,” said Peter Hans, director of the town planning department. 

The 2,900 page statement is not yet publicly available. Once the Planning Board accepts the report as complete, likely at the Dec. 11 meeting, the document will be posted online and the public comment period will begin. 

Subdivision plans obtained from the Town  indicate that the proposed development is extensive. The 75-acre complex currently includes a catering hall, existing light industrial buildings and open space. The proposal subdivides the lot into nine parcels that include one for the existing catering hall, one for the industrial building and a third for open space.  Six of the nine proposed sublots would be for new development. Development plans include a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and conference hall, two large-scale medical office parks, one at 75,000 square feet and another at 55,000 square feet, plus two separate 110-unit assisted living centers and a 7-acre sewer treatment facility.

If approved, the project will become one of the largest commercial transformations in an otherwise residential and agricultural setting along Route 25A in the St. James hamlet.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the project, if approved, is a real threat to the quality of life in this area of the North Shore, with traffic being the more immediate concern and water quality threatened over time.

“This project is a real threat to the water chemistry of Stony Brook Harbor,” he said.  

He estimates that the treated sewage from the site would upwell into the harbor within two to five years. Aside from the environmental and water quality concerns, Englebright said that the project is a classic case of proposed overdevelopment. 

“The whole thing is a complete traffic nightmare,” he said. “Roadways are oversubscribed. Route 25A is already crowded and by extension, we find that Stony Brook Road just can’t handle any more traffic.”

The area, the assemblyman said, is not really a heavy development zone. 

The property is zoned light industrial, or LI. It does not require a zone change, town officials said, since the identified uses are conceptual at this time. If the developers decide to move forward with a hotel or assisted living facility, those uses would require Special Exception approvals from the Town Board and site plan approval. Office buildings would require only site plan approval. 

Englebright encourages people to express their concerns and appeal to the decision-makers in Smithtown.

The subdivision process began when the Smithtown Planning Board adopted May 9, 2018, a State Environmental Quality Review Act Positive Declaration. The declaration, which is simply a determination that the project has the potential to result in a significant environmental impact, establishes that an Environmental Impact Statement would be required. The applicant has now completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Planning Board is expected to accept the report as complete at its next meeting. The Town will then file with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation a Notice of Completion of a DEIS. The filing of the Notice of Completion opens the public comment period, which has to run at least 30 days. The Town anticipates that the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Gyrodyne DEIS in January.  

Following the close of the public comment period, a final DEIS will have to be prepared that responds to the comments received, and then the Planning Board would have to adopt a findings statement. The Planning Board will not be able to act on the pending subdivision until the FEIS and Findings Statement have been adopted. The process, though, is months away.

Representatives from Gyrodyne did not respond to telephone messages before going to print.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals is pushing pause on considering a plan to build a 7-Eleven in Centerport and wants more information on the proposal’s potential traffic and environmental impacts.

The application, which was scheduled for a public hearing before the ZBA today, Thursday, July 30, has been taken off the agenda, according to Robert Riekert, deputy director of planning and environment for the town. The decision came after the town received an engineer’s analysis of the 7-Eleven proposal earlier this week, requesting the applicant, 7-Eleven Inc., respond to a list of issues.

“The meeting was adjourned until a further date due to insufficiencies in their application,” Riekert said in an email.

Plans for a 7-Eleven have been in the works for a few years now. The company had tried to establish a new 7-Eleven store two years ago — the ZBA even granted approval for the business in 2013 — however, the effort was shut down by a lawsuit filed by Huntington attorney Darrin Berger, who worked with residents and the Centerport Harbor Civic Association. According to Berger, both 7-Eleven and the town didn’t properly evaluate the project’s impacts under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, also known as SEQRA.

The New York State Supreme Court agreed that the environmental review was not conducted properly, so progress for the 7-Eleven halted.

7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
7-Eleven is seeking to set up shop in Centerport. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

If approved, the convenience store would be a one-story, freestanding market on a 21,553 square foot parcel. An existing automotive repair shop currently on that land would be demolished to make way for the business. The proposed public hearing was meant for the ZBA to review a request for a special use permit and area variance in order to demolish the auto repair shop.

Dunn Engineering Associates P.C., a town-appointed engineering firm that reviewed the applicant’s traffic analysis, requested that 7-Eleven re-evaluate several points in its application to build a store on the northeast corner of Route 25A and Little Neck Road. Their concerns predominately had to do with traffic safety issues. Dunn Engineering Associates sent their opinions on the proposal to Christopher Modelewski, chairman of the ZBA, this week.

According to a letter from Walter Dunn Jr., president of Dunn Engineering Associates, to Modelewski, the applicant should request accident data in the vicinity of the proposed 7-Eleven site along Route 25A, Little Neck Road and Centerport Road.

“This data should be analyzed to minimize the possibility of traffic safety concerns created due to the addition of the proposed 7-Eleven convenience store,” Dunn said.

Traffic safety issues also included sight distance. Dunn said the engineers performed a sight distance investigation and concluded that 7-Eleven’s traffic engineer should review and verify the adequacy of the two proposed access points and the engineer’s findings.

In a previous letter, the firm noted that Route 25A and Little Neck Road both have considerable horizontal and vertical curvature in vicinity of the proposed site. In order to make sure that the curvature wouldn’t have a detrimental impact on the operations of the proposed access points, sight distance was evaluated at both locations.

While the engineers’ study discovered that sight visibility was limited at a certain section, it was determined that, due to traffic signals, a car would not be going at a fast enough speed for this to be considered dangerous. “Therefore sight distance at this driveway location is considered accurate,” Dunn wrote

7-Eleven has proposed establishing new turning lanes at the intersection if they are approved, however, the letter urged that 7-Eleven redo their capacity analyses for the separate right and left turning lanes and through lanes. Dunn Engineering Associates said that 7-Eleven should reverse their proposal of a separate right turn lane, and a shared left turn/through lane for more successful traffic flow.

The applicant also submitted a proposal to widen the west side of Little Neck Road to provide a southbound approach to Route 25A. This would provide a separate left turn lane and a combined through/right turn lane. Dunn suggested that this proposal be added into the traffic impact study so the town could further examine this possibility.

A final suggestion engineers introduced involves the issue of delivery trucks coming in and out of the area to supply 7-Eleven.

Kenneth Barnes, regional development director for 7-Eleven, made a statement in an affidavit in May, according to Dunn Engineering Associates, that there would be a commitment to restrict the size and movements of delivery trucks.

It was suggested that this commitment be added into the traffic impact study along with a statement, so that the town’s previous concerns that larger sized trucks couldn’t safely maneuver through the site or entrance of the proposed 7-Eleven are mitigated.

Meanwhile, Centerport residents are continuing their fight against the possibility of a new 7-Eleven.

Gloria Wertheimer, president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association, said last week her group feels the project would bring additional traffic to an already congested area and a busy intersection. They also feel that it does not fit in with Centerport at all, a small business, local community driven area.

“It doesn’t belong here, we feel it’s going to draw the wrong type of crowd,” Wertheimer said.

7-Eleven did not return multiple calls seeking comment this week.

A rendering of the Gateway Plaza development on the left, and on the top right, the envisioned artist residences on the corners of New York Avenue and Church Street. Image from Renaissance Downtowns

Plans to revitalize Huntington Station are inching closer to fruition, with the town board holding a public hearing next week to jointly consider the environmental impacts of three potential developments that would inject the community with retail, commercial and residential spaces.

Renaissance Downtowns, a private developer the town appointed and charged with revitalizing Huntington Station, is spearheading the projects situated along New York Avenue. They include a four-story, 140-room hotel with 100,000 square feet of office space; 49 artists’ lofts, which would include residences and gallery space in a three-story building; and 68 residences made up of studios and one-bedroom units to be built above 16,000 square feet of retail space.

Andrea Bonilla, the community liaison for Source the Station, a partner of Renaissance Downtowns that solicits ideas for redevelopment in Huntington Station, said the public hearing will allow the board to consider the impacts of all three projects in one hearing, versus considering one at a time, which would take about six to nine months each, she said in an interview this week.

“The feeling was if you’re in very close proximity, to do a single environmental impact statement to cover the area,” town spokesman A.J. Carter said last week.

It’s a big step forward for Renaissance, and for the area’s revitalization, Ryan Porter, vice president for planning and development at Renaissance Downtowns said this week. “It’s huge,” he said.

The three projects represent what Renaissance has identified as “immediate opportunity sites,” meaning they’ll able to be developed within the current sewer district capacity.

There’s still work to be done before the projects are in the ground. Once the board considers the environmental impacts under the New York State Environmental Quality Review process, it can choose to adopt a finding on whether the projects pose a significant impact. If a favorable finding were adopted, Renaissance would begin financing the projects and gaining site plan approval for each lot, Porter said.

Porter said he hopes Renaissance breaks ground on the hotel project by the end of the year. He also said he has already attracted interest from companies such as Marriott and Hilton.

The public hearing next week is yet another town board milestone on Renaissance’s road to revitalization of Huntington Station. The most recent was the town board’s approval of a community benefits agreement in January that spells out job and economic benefits to the surrounding community if Renaissance develops property in Huntington Station. That agreement was the brainchild of a number of local groups, officials have said.