Board members: Avalon Bay project needs to be less dense

An artist's rendering illustrates the proposed AvalonBay affordable

An artist's rendering illustrates the proposed AvalonBay affordable housing project in Huntington Station. (Credit: Handout)

Less density.

That's what two members of the Huntington Town Board who Tuesday night voted down the Avalon Bay Huntington Station project said Wednesday would be the starting point for them to consider approving a similar development. A third board member who voted for the project agreed a lower-density proposal would have a much better shot at approval.

The 490-unit development, slated for a 26.6-acre parcel located about a half-mile from the local Long Island Rail Road station, would have offered housing opportunities near mass transit to people at varying income, ages and stages of life to decrease their dependence on cars, town officials said. The original proposal of 530 units was scaled back in response to community concerns.

Town board member Susan Berland, who cast one of three votes that defeated the proposal, said she would welcome a scaled-down project that used existing zoning code. One such code would allow about 380 units.

"It was much too dense," Berland said Wednesday, adding she is not in favor of building the 109 single-family homes for which the parcel currently is zoned. "They are going to have to start from the beginning with a new plan. And they can't start with a public hearing, which was what their problem was this time. Go to the community; you have to show them the plan and win them over."

Mark Cuthbertson, who also voted no, said he would not dismiss a new proposal "if it provides for a significant investment in Huntington Station, and also has a component of affordable housing, because I think those are both important pieces of the equation."

Glenda Jackson, who along with town Supervisor Frank Petrone voted for the project, said it was clear some residents disapproved of its size.

"It's unfortunate," Jackson said. "I think the development would have given that area a boost and it would have been another component to the revitalization we are trying to do for Huntington Station. But hopefully there'll be some compromise and perhaps they will come back."

Christopher Capece, development director for AvalonBay Communities, said at a discussion yesterday in Bethpage that the firm still was digesting what happened at Tuesday night's vote.

Board members said the project was derailed in part by residents' concerns about traffic and overcrowding, and misinformation about the plan.

"The traffic on Park Avenue from 4 p.m. on is horrible," said Charles Hurme, 98, one of a group of men playing tennis Wednesday at a Huntington Station park.

Town board member Mark Mayoka, who voted against the plan, said any developer would have to get solid support from residents before he would sign off on any development.

"The focus should be on what the community wants and right now it's focusing on crime, gangs and illegal housing," Mayoka said.

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