Islip planning board reserves decision on luxury complex

Islip Town Hall is located at 655 Main Islip Town Hall is located at 655 Main St. in Islip. Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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The town planning board has reserved decision on a zone change application for a luxury apartment building in Islip hamlet after neighbors protested the proposal.

The board plans to hold a meeting on the application, but no date was set after the Dec. 18 hearing.

Last year, Bohlsen Restaurant Group bought the former Masonic temple at Main Street and Willow Avenue and announced plans to build loft-style apartments called Meridian Lofts. The company also bought an adjacent house at 16 Willow St., which it plans to turn into 10 parking spaces.

"We believe this is the best use of both properties," said BRG co-owner Kurt Bohlsen in an email statement after the hearing. "It will enhance the walk downtown in the hamlet of Islip, create a less intense use for the Main Street building and create off-street parking for residents," he said.

The company filed applications this year with the town planning board to both designate the Masonic temple as standing in a planned landmark preservation district and restore the exterior. BRG is also seeking a special permit to convert the temple into 10 lofts, and the Willow Street property into a parking lot.

Thom Penn, one of the many Willow Street residents who came to the meeting, said that while the Masonic temple was in "derelict condition, . . . the density of that apartment building is unacceptable."

Resident Shawn Wallace, who lives next to the planned parking lot, said he's worried about privacy and the parking lot's impact on his young children. "I would have cars parked that would be facing my dining room as well as my living room," he said.

Resident Todd Pearsall said his street's proximity to Main Street's popular restaurants and shops have turned it into a traffic hazard. "It's a party every day of the week on Willow, and it's not the residents that are partying," he said.

Pearsall's 10-year-old daughter Victoria added her voice to the hearing. "I can't play outside on my street because the cars come zooming down the street, and it scares me," she said.

Resident Erik Constantino said the apartment plans on the plots suggest they will be marketed toward singles -- perhaps altering the family-oriented character of the neighborhood. "It's the safety," he said. "It just changes the mix."

In response, BRG lawyer Vincent Messina said the Masonic temple used to be rented out for events that were unregulated by the town.

"What we're offering is the town to regulate this site in a manner they cannot right now," he said, adding that the company is trying to help the community with traffic and parking concerns.

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