An East Hampton developer must redesign his plans for an apartment building in Smithtown's downtown because an air shaft in the proposed structure would be too narrow, a town planner said this week.
An attorney for Salvatore DiCarlo, who owns a vacant former lumber yard on West Main Street, said they will comply with the order.
DiCarlo wants to erect 56 apartments, offices and retail stores in two buildings on the 3-acre parcel, across the street from Smithtown Town Hall.
At a town Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing on Tuesday, assistant town planning director David Flynn said a three-story, 3,600-square-foot apartment building in the rear of the property "would have to be adjusted" because a shaft in the center of the edifice would be only 15 feet wide. DiCarlo has asked the board to approve a variance allowing the shaft to be narrower than the minimum 30 feet town code requires.
Flynn said the small space would cause occupants to look into one another's windows. "We didn't think that would be good for the residents who would live there," he said.
Board member Anthony Tanzi Jr. questioned how residents would escape through the shaft if a fire broke out in the building.
Smithtown attorney Vincent Trimarco, who represents DiCarlo, agreed to have the plans revised. "I guess we don't have a choice," he said.
The hearing was adjourned until July 23.
Town officials hope DiCarlo's project helps rejuvenate the commercial district, after several years of decline.
The property had been the focus of a Suffolk County grand jury probe that ended last year with no charges filed. The panel investigated whether unnamed town officials had induced DiCarlo to demolish structures on the site for $4,000 in tax savings in 2009.
Before Flynn made his comments, Trimarco said the project would upgrade the site, which has been empty since Nassau Suffolk Lumber and Supply Corp. closed more than four years ago. The parcel includes decaying buildings and a parking lot.
"It's certainly going to be a tremendous improvement over what is there," Trimarco said. "It'll be the best thing that has happened to Smithtown in a long time."
Residents who spoke at the public hearing gave the proposal mixed reviews.
Walter Lahmann, of Fort Salonga, suggested lowering the height of the buildings -- which would be as high as 39 feet -- to 35 feet, "so we don't have buildings that look like Queens and Brooklyn."