Lee Koppelman, the man who drew up Suffolk's first comprehensive master plan in 1970, showed up at a public hearing in Hauppauge Monday to endorse the county's first new plan in 45 years.

And at the same time, County Executive Steve Bellone presented Koppelman, 88, the region's top planner for decades, the Suffolk Medal for Distinguished Service.

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Bellone lauded Koppelman, saying the honor is "long overdue," noting his tenure at the county and position as the region's top planner from 1960 to 1988. He said Koppelman pioneered county planning efforts when planning "was the furthest thing from most county officials' minds . . . Once he was a lonely voice, but he'd been proved 100 percent right."

He credited Koppelman as a "visionary" who spearheaded efforts to protect the underground water supply and preserve tens of thousands of acres of open space and county farmland, "in short, all the elements that make this an extraordinary region."

Listening to Bellone, Koppelman, now a resident of South Setauket, said: "It almost sounded like a eulogy. I just thank God almighty I'm here for this presentation and it is not being given posthumously."