Huntington open to new AvalonBay proposal

Lisa Tyson talks about a proposed Avalon Bay Lisa Tyson talks about a proposed Avalon Bay affordable housing project at a Huntington town hall meeting. (Sept. 7, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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Three Huntington town board members have extended an invitation to AvalonBay officials to submit a smaller proposal for rental housing in Huntington Station - and AvalonBay has accepted.

In September, a controversial AvalonBay plan was rejected by the board over the project's density.

AvalonBay Communities vice president Matthew Whalen said he has had conversations in recent days with town Supervisor Frank Petrone and board members Mark Cuthbertson and Glenda Jackson, asking him to try again.

"I'm encouraged by the meetings," Whalen said Wednesday. "I need to go back to both my corporate office and the sellers of the property to see what kind of feasibility there is in an alternative, downsized plan."

The three board members said they are hopeful Whalen comes back with a smaller plan that would use zoning categories already in the town code.

Last year's proposal for 490 units on a 26.6-acre parcel a half-mile from the local Long Island Rail Road stop offered people of varying income and ages housing near mass transit to decrease dependence on cars. Resident objections included fear of overburdened services and the creation of a new zoning category allowing higher-density housing in Huntington Station. Cuthbertson backed the plan but changed his mind after the Huntington school board withdrew its support. The proposal was defeated, 3-2.

"I've always said to [Whalen] that the door was open if they would come back with a proposal that was less dense and . . . and can meet current zoning," Cuthbertson said.

Board member Mark Mayoka said he was not aware of a new proposal and wants a moratorium on high-density housing in Huntington Station.

"We need to focus on the issue of crime, safety issues and work toward reopening the Jack Abrams school," Mayoka said. "This is what the community wants us to do."

Whalen had no details of a new proposal but expects AvalonBay to complete a feasibility study within two weeks. Before the former proposal's defeat, he said it could not be scaled back for economic reasons. He said that is still a concern. "There are some basic economics that would have to change in order for this to be feasible," Whalen said, "and if it's feasible it's going to be primarily with concessions from the seller."

Property owner Louis Bonavita did not return calls.

Town board member Susan Berland, who voted against the former project said she was not aware a new proposal was imminent. "Not having a seat at the table I have no idea what they invited him back for," she said. "I have lots of ideas that Avalon didn't listen to the first time. Maybe if they invited me to the table maybe they would listen to me this time."

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