Islip Pines proposal back on town agenda

Serota Properties proposes this 136-acre Islip Pines development Serota Properties proposes this 136-acre Islip Pines development for the intersection of Sunrise and Veterans Memorial highway in Holbrook. (Feb. 12, 2012) Photo Credit: Serota Properties

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A proposal to build a mixed-use complex on 136 acres at the intersection of Sunrise and Veterans Memorial highways in Holbrook is back on the agenda after lying dormant for more than three years.

The Islip Town board Tuesday is expected to vote to accept a draft environmental impact statement and set March 22 as a public hearing for Serota Properties' Islip Pines proposal, which requires a zoning change.

The development -- the subject of staunch community opposition in the past -- would include 250 "moderately priced," one- and two-bedroom condominium on the property's western flank, about 450,000 square feet of retail space, up to 1.3 million square feet of commercial-industrial space, and four acres of open space for recreational use by the public.

Bram Weber, Serota's attorney, called the complex "the next generation of development on Long Island" -- with a comprehensive design that would enable residents, shoppers and workers to ride a free electric trolley or take a pedicab to destinations within the community.

Islip Pines would be on the northeast corner of the intersection, sitting north of Sunrise and between Veterans Memorial Highway and Nicolls Road.

The property has lain undeveloped for decades, Weber said, because the 136 acres are now zoned industrial, which is no longer seen as appropriate or attractive in that location. The developer wants to change the zoning at the site to a planned development district.

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Residents and town officials have expressed concern at the retail component, which includes plans for two big-box stores, which the developer views as critical.

"I'm shocked to hear this proposal is back -- we've heard nothing about it over the past two to three years," said Bob Draffin, president of the Bayport Civic Association.

His organization -- along with other civic groups and chambers of commerce along the South Shore -- voiced concern in 2009 at the potential impact on nearby retail outlets and the increased traffic such a development could bring.

Noting a number of empty stores along Main Street in Sayville alone, Draffin said Sunday that any proposal bringing more retail to the area was "the last thing" needed by mom-and-pop stores that are struggling to stay afloat in an already fragile economy.

Serota submitted an application for a zone change in December 2008.

In August 2009, the Sunrise Highway Corridor Study prepared by the towns of Islip and Brookhaven, together with Suffolk County planners, noted that retail development in the area was "significant."

The vacancy rate then stood at 17 percent, and the report concluded that "existing retail should not be expanded in any significant manner."

The report called retail development along the corridor "a critical policy question" and recommended six "major nodes" presently identified in the corridor remain the principal retail locations and "not be expanded in any significant manner."

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Islip Supervisor Tom Croci said Friday that the proposal brought the prospect of much-needed tax revenue and jobs and that the town would work closely with all parties.

"The town board and I are going to work with not only our planning department, but the developer, the local businesses and the communities involved to ensure any development on this property is the right balance for the town," Croci said.

Weber said Serota, which has owned the property for more than 20 years, currently pays $500,000 a year in taxes, but once the site is developed it could yield up to $6 million a year in taxes based on current rates alone.

An estimated $3.75 million in sales tax was also projected, and the complex would create 2,600 permanent jobs in addition to about 900 construction jobs, he said.

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