Smithtown officials attack consultant on land use

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously to purchase

The Smithtown Town Board voted unanimously to purchase two properties for $240,000 that can be used for transfer of density flow rights. (Feb. 20, 2012) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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Smithtown Town officials are distancing themselves from a consultant's suggestion that they rezone more than 90 acres of vacant residential property in Kings Park to allow industrial development.

Town board members, who had hoped the draft report by Baldassano Architecture of Patchogue would help settle complex land-use issues at Old Northport and Lawrence roads, instead expressed concern that it further clouded them.

At a work session Tuesday, Supervisor Patrick Vecchio described the $20,000 report's recommendations as "mind boggling" and Councilman Edward Wehrheim said the report was "a step backwards" in the town's efforts to revamp zoning in the hamlet.

The town board earlier this year commissioned the report, known as the Lawrence Road study, to propose future uses of land in a section of Kings Park lined with construction, paving and mining firms. Nearby residents complain the businesses cause odors, traffic and other nuisances.

Town officials, civic leaders and some business owners have discussed a compromise that would give the town more control over the businesses, while allowing the companies to store equipment outdoors, which is banned under the zoning code.

But in the report released last week, Baldassano principal Alexander Badalamenti went further -- recommending that the 92 acres of undeveloped residential land be placed in a new zoning category allowing industrial uses and outdoor storage. He argued the land is unsuitable for homes because of excavation that could cause flooding and other problems.

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Another 34 acres, zoned light industrial, also would be rezoned as industrial under the Baldassano plan.

Councilman Wehrheim said adopting the recommendations would be taking "a step backwards," adding the new zoning would allow businesses such as warehouses and offices on land zoned for houses. "I'm a little confused why we went backwards with this," he said.

Vecchio said he could not support the report's conclusions. "It wasn't worth the paper it's written on," he said. "It really was bollixed up."

Badalamenti declined to comment Wednesday and said he had not heard from town officials since releasing the report.

Town planning director Frank DeRubeis said he would give the town board a response to the report when it is finished. Badalamenti said he expects to complete the report's final section -- an analysis of market conditions -- by Christmas.

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