The Islip Planning Board, after almost three hours of discussion, has voted to reserve decision on a change of zone that would pave the way for a hotly contested proposal to build 56 affordable senior apartments in Bayport.
The site, which includes a decaying warehouse and an 1870s-era Victorian house, is on 4.5 acres on McConnell Avenue and is owned by Jim Tsunis, of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group. The parcels are zoned Industrial 1 and Residence A, explained Tsunis' Sayville-based lawyer Eugene DeNicola, and Tsunis is seeking a change to Residence C. The home would be kept intact and used as a clubhouse for residents of the complex.
"At present I would characterize the site as a blighted site," said environmental planner Charles Voorhis, who presented expert testimony at a public hearing July 12 night for Tsunis in favor of the project, citing the desire in Islip's comprehensive plan for diversified housing stock. "This does represent housing diversity, and for me it hits three areas -- it's affordable, it's rentals and it's for seniors."
DeNicola said because only those 55 and older would live there, no school-aged children would be added to the Bayport-Blue Point district. Voorhis said a housing complex would generate more tax revenue than an industrial area.
But residents railed against the proposal, and comments from neighbors during the public hearing were passionate and not time-limited. The first speakers, married couple Maureen and Matthew Feddern who last week circulated a petition against the development that they said garnered more than 250 signatures, were at the podium for nearly 40 minutes.
Matthew Feddern read part of the petition to explain the neighbors' opposition, which he said "is based upon the fact that these high-density rentals do not fit in with the nature and character of the surrounding properties that are privately owned, single-family residences, most on a parcel of land of an acre or more."
He said the roughly 100 cars added would congest local roads and create an unsafe condition for children walking to a nearby elementary school, and the building of a sewage-treatment facility on the property would be an environmental burden on nearby waterways.
John McArdle, 68, said he loves Bayport because it's a green refuge from the chaos of Manhattan and more crowded areas of Long Island, and doesn't want to see it developed further. "Bayport is my castle," McArdle said. "Bayport is my home."