Holbrook development project meeting draws crowds

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Residents and business owners opposed to the Islip Pines development project in Holbrook packed the Islip Town Board meeting Tuesday night to have their voices heard one last time, nearly two years after the public comments period closed.

Current and past presidents and members of multiple chambers of commerce -- from Holbrook, Sayville, Oakdale and Bay Shore -- were some of the estimated 30 speakers. Many of them criticized the proposed zone change needed for the 136-acre, mixed-use plan's approval.

A supporter was Kevin Guilfoyle, vice president of Holbrook's Chamber of Commerce for the past 15 years, who said the project will not have an impact on downtown shops and any development would bring in shoppers. Speaking of his and other communities, he said village downtowns are "already dying."

"We are currently meeting with Islip Planning, because if a zone change is warranted for this property to make it more economically viable, then the same can be spoken for our existing downtowns to make them more economically viable," Guilfoyle said.

The Serota Properties project includes 350 housing units and nearly 1.1 million square feet of industrial and office space, 38,000 square feet of commercial space, 339,000 square feet of retail -- including two big-box stores -- 178,000 square feet of entertainment space, a 12.7-acre great lawn, and six athletic fields along Sunrise Highway. Critics say the project is too big for Holbrook.

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The project is on the Islip Planning Board's schedule for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. If a decision for a recommendation is reached, the plan will proceed to the Islip Town Board for final zone change approval.

The first public hearing was in November 2009 and the last, in front of the Islip Town Board, was in March 2012. Civic meetings, including one last March where about two dozen South Shore community leaders spoke out against the project at a local library meeting, have taken place in between.

"Anyone who was there, who kept their arguments the same, haven't even considered the new plan," Serota's attorney, Bram Weber, said after the meeting. He was referring to reduced retail square footage and other changes made since the initial proposal.

"They just want to continue to have the same arguments over and over again and they don't want to see the truth," he said.

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