Huntington board OKs zone changes for hotel project

A boutique hotel and office space at southwest A boutique hotel and office space at southwest corner of Railroad Street and New York Avenue in Huntington Station is proposed during a hearing on April 26, 2013. Photo Credit: Renaissance Downtowns

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The centerpiece for the revitalization of Huntington Station -- a hotel -- is a step closer to construction.

The Huntington Town board voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve zoning changes that will allow a boutique hotel at the southwest corner of New York Avenue and Railroad Street.

"We're feeling great, the process is an ongoing one," Donald Monti, CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer for Huntington Station, said Wednesday. "This is another step in the direction of getting to a point where we submit a site plan."

The board rezoned a municipal parking lot, then added a provision to the zoning category to allow a hotel on the land, with the issuance of a special-use permit. The hotel will need the approval of the town board. The board also amended its arrangement with Renaissance to require that a community benefits agreement -- which could include covenants and restrictions -- be finalized before site-plan approval.

Monti said it's premature to announce which chain will run the hotel but that Renaissance officials have had conversations with "all the major ones."

"I can tell you that just about anyone that you would think about is someone that we have spoken to at some point in time," he said. "Certainly now that the special-use permit is allowed we're going to definitely heat up with those conversations."

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Monti said a realistic time frame for the start of construction is spring 2015. He did not have an estimate of the cost.

For years, Huntington Station has been the focus of revitalization efforts that have failed. In April 2012, the town selected Renaissance Downtowns as the master developer of the area, and town Supervisor Frank Petrone ran a re-election campaign last year partially on his efforts to make sure this latest venture is properly launched.

"I'm proud of what we have done recently," Petrone said after the vote Tuesday night. "We're moving along at a good pace."

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Huntington school district Superintendent James Polansky addressed the board outlining some concerns including what would become of the building if a hotel does not prove profitable.

As part of the community benefits agreement there will be covenants and restrictions on the parcel, "in order to restrict other use if the hotel fails, or if they wish to change the use," Petrone said. "There will be covenants and restrictions that will delineate what that can be. It will be in the commercial area. Basically to avoid a welfare hotel or rooming house."

As part of the revitalization plan, the board also approved the transfer of $2 million from the town's Affordable Housing Trust and Agency Account to the Take Back the Blocks Columbia Terrace Project. The money will go toward construction of the Columbia Terrace project, across the street from the proposed hotel.

It is to include 14 units of owner-occupied, low-cost housing for military veterans on the west side of Lowndes Avenue, between Railroad and Columbia streets.

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