The developer of a Middle Island affordable housing project and an environmental advocacy group have taken their long-running dispute to a Brookhaven Town zoning panel.
The Long Island Pine Barrens Society has sought to block the project on the grounds that town officials erroneously issued a building permit on Dec. 16 to Medford-based nonprofit developer Concern for Independent Living. About half of the development's 123 units would be for military veterans.
Concern for Independent Living defended the development and received support from a Middle Island civic leader and veterans advocates during a hearing Wednesday before the town zoning board of appeals.
"These guys need help, and this is what they need," Eugene G. Smith, a Vietnam veteran from Yaphank, told the board. "These veterans, they need homes."
Pine Barrens Society executive director Richard Amper said his organization supports veterans housing, but said the developer had failed to acquire wetlands and wastewater permits before receiving the town building permit.
"It's just a simple question: What are the requirements for a building permit, and were they met?" Amper said.
State environmental officials have expressed concern over whether development at the site on Middle Country Road may affect the endangered tiger salamander.
Attorneys for Concern for Independent Living said at the hearing that the company worked with state officials to ensure the amphibians and a nearby pond are not harmed.
The dispute dates to 2009, when the Pine Barrens Society tried to block a previous housing project, known as Sandy Hills, that had been slated for the site. That project died when the developer went bankrupt.
In January, a state Supreme Court justice lifted a restraining order, allowing work at the site to proceed, but construction has not begun.
Hauppauge attorney Charles Russo, representing Concern for Independent Living, said the Pine Barrens Society sought a board of zoning appeals hearing as "an end run" around the Supreme Court decision.
"This is one more improper attempt to stay the development," Russo said.
Responding to questions from zoning board of appeals chairman Paul M. DeChance, Concern for Independent Living's lawyers could not say whether the company had obtained wastewater and wetlands permits. DeChance said he would seek documents on the matter from the developer and the town building department.