Lawmaker wants Lake Ronkonkoma eyesore to become a park

Former site of the Bavarian Inn in Lake Former site of the Bavarian Inn in Lake Ronkonkoma. (June 11, 2013) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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A Suffolk County legislator is calling for the dismantling of a long-defunct restaurant and catering facility now owned by the county, but officials say his plan to turn the property on the shore of Lake Ronkonkoma into a park is costly.

The Bavarian Inn, which has been closed for more than six years, is an eyesore with its exterior covered by graffiti and parking area of broken asphalt overgrown with weeds, said John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset). The lawmaker urged Suffolk to develop a demolition plan in a letter last week to county officials.

"The residents have endured this rotting hulk for long enough," Kennedy said in an interview. "It has been the subject of fires in the past, drug paraphernalia, and has also taken up the time and expense of town government through repeated board-ups."

The location -- bordered by Lily Pond Park and Walter S. Commerdinger's historic home to the north, Lake Ronkonkoma to the south and Lake Ronkonkoma County Park to the north and west -- makes the former restaurant "an excellent candidate" for the county park system, he said. "Our long-range goal is to develop launching points for nonmotorized boating like kayaking and canoeing," Kennedy said.

Development of the site would be subject to provisions of the New York State freshwater regulations due to its location on the shoreline of Lake Ronkonkoma, said Department of Environmental Conservation Regional director Peter Scully.

Suffolk County took ownership of the Smithtown Boulevard property on June 19, 2012, due to tax default, said county spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter.

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"We are concerned that Legislator Kennedy's proposal could cost Suffolk County taxpayers, at minimum, $600,000 inclusive of demolition, restoration and the inability to recoup tax arrears," she said. "At a time when the county is facing a fiscal deficit, we must be extremely prudent with dollars spent."

Baird-Streeter said the county "will look at all possible options for this property and find a solution that is in the best interest of all Suffolk County taxpayers," adding that those options include sale at auction and transfer for municipal purpose.

Smithtown Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio described the property as "a dangerous nuisance" and said, "I'm totally in agreement with Mr. Kennedy's sentiments."

Beachfront recreation or boat launching would be the best use for the property, said town planning director Frank DeRubeis, adding, "We all want this building to come down."

"Even if you used it for park land, you couldn't build a restroom on the facility," he said of the poor septic system and frequent flooding due to high groundwater.

Residents said they support Kennedy's plan.

Michael Fallacara, director of the Walter S. Commerdinger Preservation Society, said, "Our hopes and dreams are to turn that into a passive public park," he said. "Perhaps have boats and canoe areas, maybe a gazebo."

Frank Gorman, chairman of the Nesconset-Sachem Civic Association, said the environmentally sensitive land is "too much of a community asset . . . to do anything other than make it a park."

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Gorman said the current building is "disgraceful" and said his group found needles and plastic bags of heroin there a few years ago. "Nobody wants it in their back yard."

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