The Huntington Town Board last night voted down the proposed Avalon Bay housing development in Huntington Station, turning back a project that critics feared would have overburdened the community even as supporters said it was the key to revitalizing it.
In recent weeks, the proposal has dominated meetings and rallies, and divided neighbors. Opponents hung white sheets with their views emblazoned in red ink around town.
Regional planners have said such higher density developments are critical to creating housing diversity, vibrant downtowns and a revitalized economy. But opponents said the area's recent spate of violence had to be dealt with first, along with concerns about the impact on traffic and local schools.
Last night, resident Matt Harris, of Huntington Station, an active opponent of the project, said, "I'm very happy this is dead. But it was a long, hard road. Before they put one more person in Huntington Station, they need to clean it up."
But Maritza Silva-Farrell, community organizer for the Long Island Progressive Coalition, said, "It's not a loss for us or for Avalon Bay. It's a loss for Huntington Station and the efforts to revitalize it."
Matt Whalen, Avalon Bay's vice president of development, said, "We're deeply disappointed in the vote. We thought this had all the right components of a great proposal." He declined to say whether the developer would resubmit an alternate proposal.
The approval of Avalon Bay would have simultaneously established the Huntington Station Transit Oriented District, which some residents feared would lay the groundwork for other high-density developments.
Under the proposal for the transit oriented district, any parcel of land of at least 10 acres could possibly be turned into a transit-oriented district, provided it is a half-mile from the Huntington Station Long Island Rail Road Station and gets prior approval from the town board.
Petrone said the outcome left him concerned about the community's future, saying, "My fear is as a result of this vote, developers will now look at the Station and be very hesitant given the economy and the commitment in the town to go forward."
At a March 9 public hearing before the town board, speakers overwhelmingly supported the project, which was expected to cost $100 million. But in months to follow, opposition to the project grew. The board twice delayed a vote on a zoning change for the project as the developers made changes in response to residents' concerns.
"There was no other zone in town code that would have allowed what they wanted to do," said town board member Mark Cuthbertson, explaining why the two proposals were linked together.
Estimated cost: $100M
Proposed units: 490 (18.5 units per acre)
Units to be rented or sold at market rate: 368
Units set aside for renters earning 50% to 110% of median income: 122
Avalon Bay agreed to provide $2.25 million in benefits to the Huntington Station community in return for the rezoning. Those include a $1.5-million donation to the Huntington School District and donations to other community organizations.