A real estate construction developer’s petition to lift restrictions of a zone change approval dating back to the 1990s on a senior apartment community has drawn the ire of hundreds of Nesconset residents concerned about potential impacts on traffic, the environment and quality of life.
Story Book Homes wants to increase the number of units for the proposed apartment complex to 228 units from 192 and operate a private sewage treatment plant on the 23.17-acre site, located on the north side of Smithtown Boulevard (County Road 16), west of Gibbs Pond Road.
Opponents said more than 800 residents signed a petition against Story Book’s request to change certain conditions, including increasing the number of units. The developer agreed to the conditions in 1996, as part of Smithtown town’s approval of its application to rezone neighborhood business and residential property to garden apartments.
Frank A. Tantone, a Ronkonkoma-based attorney for Story Book, said his client has been a builder for more than 25 years, accumulated several properties since that time, and was just getting around to developing the Nesconset site.
He said “it’s economically more advantageous” for the company to build more units, particularly since it waived plans to include basements in the units at the town’s direction.
“We fully intend to work with the residents to make it a good project, so that everyone will be happy,” he said, adding that they are also prepared to address environmental and traffic concerns with town officials.
Several residents attended a Suffolk County Planning Commission meeting earlier this month asking commissioners to reject Story Book’s application. The commission must review the request, per general municipal law, because the zoning action is within 500 feet of a county road.
Robert Goykin, 60, of Nesconset, said the original traffic studies for the project were completed a quarter century ago. “Any increased density will surely exacerbate traffic and noise pollution, air pollution, congestion and safety issues that have become untenable in the 25 years that have passed since the original application,” he said.
Peter Hanson, 73, of Nesconset, said he was concerned about the transient nature of renters.
“They don’t have roots. The rents go up, they move. If our house values decrease, most of us still stay because of the investment,” he said.
For Patty Stoddard, who has resided in Nesconset for more than 50 years, environmental issues were paramount.
“Stormwater runoff and flooding in the Lake Ronkonkoma-Nesconset area has been a chronic problem for as long as I can remember — particularly due to the underground clay deposit, which prevents the absorption of water,” said Stoddard, 63. “Treated wastewater released into the ground from this project will make matters much worse.”
Suffolk County Planning Commission members voted unanimously Jan. 6 to deem the application as incomplete and included several comments to Smithtown officials, including a request for an updated environmental impact statement specifically studying, but not limited to, traffic, water table, sewers, drainage and flooding.
Planning Commissioner John Finn, who represents the Town of Smithtown, said rejecting apartments was “a very shortsighted approach.”
“Apartments are a necessary component to having a very strong and robust community, and that’s why we’re failing in Smithtown,” said Finn.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio and Councilman Thomas McCarthy said they couldn’t comment on Story Book’s application before the town’s public hearing.