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Deborah S. Morris

Deborah is a native Long Islander. She started at Newsday in 1998 and has worked in all corners of the newsroom, from the art department to the copy desk. She has covered just about every shift, day, night and the all-important swing shift. She started her journalism career in televison and moved on to radio broadcasting, where she was an award-winning reporter, before coming to Newsday, a life-long career goal. She has happily covered the town of Huntington, a place that she says offers a rich bounty of stories ranging from political intrigue, interesting features or fascinating profiles of the people and places that make the place an All-American City.

Huntington to study capacity of sewer district

The Town of Huntington approved a study of

The Town of Huntington approved a study of its sewer system capacity following additions of the AvalonBay development in Huntington Station, seen here on Jan. 7, 2014, and some apartments-over-stores projects. (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein )

A study to determine the unused and potential capacity of the Huntington sewer district is expected to begin this fall.

The town board recently voted 5 to 0 to authorize a $25,900 contract with Melville-based H2M Architects and Engineers for professional engineering services to conduct the study.

"There is new development of properties within the district so we need to do an analysis of what the district can handle and what we need to do if necessary to increase the potential capacity," town board member Susan Berland said in an interview Tuesday.


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The district runs from the north side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Huntington Station to the sewage treatment facility on Creek Road in Halesite, with varying east and west boundaries.

Town officials said that since the last analysis of the system was done in 2007, there has been development and proposed development in the district, such as the AvalonBay residential community and some of the apartments-over-stores projects in downtown Huntington that have affected or could impact future development and sanitation.

"The parameters of the district have not changed, but what's inside has changed," Berland said.

The capacity of the sewer district is 2.6 million gallons per day. In 2013, the average daily flow was 1.9 million gallons per day, about the same as this year -- 1.899 million gallons per day.

The district was created and a plant built in 1915. The plant was updated in 1938, in the 1980s and in 2007-08, town officials said. There are 3,201 parcels in the district.

The study is being paid for from a fund the town set up following the 2007 update. Town code was updated to include a provision to charge developers impact fees for sewer-related projects.

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Huntington to hold hearing on altering historic properties

Huntington Town Hall, at 100 Main St., on

Huntington Town Hall, at 100 Main St., on Feb. 7, 2012. (Credit: Carl Corry)

The Town of Huntington has scheduled a public hearing next month on a proposal to streamline the approval process for altering properties that are historic or are in historic districts.

Every application for a certificate of approval -- needed for a building permit in a historic district or for a historic structure -- has to go through a series of town board meetings.

At its Sept. 16 meeting, the board will consider amending the code in limited, defined situations where no significant impact on the historic district or site is expected, allowing the town's Historic Preservation Commission to issue the certificate of approval without a town board public hearing.


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"It's an effort to make it a little more time efficient for homeowners," Robert Hughes, town historian and secretary of the commission, said.

"Every application for a certificate of approval has to go through a series of three town board meetings: You need a meeting to schedule a public hearing, you have to hold the public hearing and then you have to vote on the application. That will add three months to the process."

"People will still have to go to the preservation commission and get approval from them, and then it goes back to the building department to get a building permit," Hughes said.

Some of the more routine application requests that would have a shortened process include putting in a swimming pool, building a shed or a small addition on a house.

"Pools are the perfect example because people apply for their permits in March with visions of swimming that summer and then we tell them, 'This is going to take you four months' and they don't get their pool until September," Hughes said.

The meeting is at 2 p.m. at Town Hall, 100 Main St.

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Body of missing kayaker Kevin Conley recovered from Lake Ronkonkoma

The body of 40-year-old Sound Beach resident Kevin Conley, who was last seen Aug. 13 sinking into Lake Ronkonkoma after his life vest came off, was retrieved on Aug. 23, 2014, Suffolk police said. (Credit: Stringer News Service)

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Ending a nine-day search, divers aided by sonar Saturday recovered the body of a Sound Beach man who fell out of his kayak on Lake Ronkonkoma and was presumed drowned, Suffolk County police said.

The body of Kevin Conley, 40, was discovered shortly before noon nearly 50 feet below the surface in "zero visibility," said Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commanding officer of the Suffolk homicide squad.

Officials said the body was in good condition due to cold water temperatures at that depth and did not appear to be weighed down by anything.

Beyrer said an underwater search in such a deep lake was challenging. "At the bottom of the lake, there is zero visibility," he said. "There are slopes at the bottom of the lake; the lake bottom goes from 15 to almost 70 feet deep . . . There are a lot of difficulties that divers encounter."

Conley, who family members said suffered from a degenerative brain disease and could not swim well, was last seen shortly before 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 14.

Witnesses called 911 about someone in distress after seeing a kayak overturn on the lake. As Conley struggled in the water, his life vest popped off and he slipped under, police said.

Harold Conley, 75, of Sound Beach had said that his son had been diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a hereditary and incurable brain disease that affects cognitive and motor skills.

Conley's mother died from the disease and his brother is in a nursing home suffering from the disorder, he said.

Kevin Conley often rode his bicycle about 15 miles to the lake to go fishing, the father said.

The youngest of four boys, Kevin Conley attended Miller Place High School and worked in a Rocky Point lumberyard and as a carpenter before going on disability, the family said.

Conley's remains were taken to the Suffolk medical examiner's office, authorities said.

County and state police conducted the search with help from the Suffolk marine bureau and emergency service section, which used a cadaver-sniffing dog.

Jason Norman, 43, of Ronkonkoma had been volunteering his time to help authorities search for the body, showing up day after day to scan the lake and shoreline with binoculars.

He hoped that Saturday's discovery would bring the family the closure it needs.

"Just thank God, finally," he said. "I'm gonna sleep like a baby tonight, I'll tell you that. I'm happy it's done."

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Cops: Islip man charged with arson set house on fire, barricaded himself

An arson suspect was arrested after he set fire to and barricaded himself inside an Islip residence and threatened police, Suffolk County police said.

Peter Marren, 45, of Islip, had to be rescued from the Main Street home after Third Precinct patrol Officers Arthur DeBono and Todd Jackson responded to a call for a domestic incident at the residence at 1:36 a.m. Saturday. A short time later, Marren set the house on fire and barricaded himself inside, police said.

The officers, along with Third Precinct Patrol Sgt. Andrew Manfredonia, entered the burning home and attempted to talk the suspect into coming out. Marren, who was armed with a knife, wouldn't comply and threatened to harm officers and himself, police said.


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Police were able to take Marren into custody with the assistance of officers from the Emergency Service Section, police said.

Members of the Islip Fire Department extinguished the fire.

Manfredonia, DeBono and Jackson were treated for smoke inhalation at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore. Marren was treated at Southside for injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

Marren was charged with third-degree arson and criminal contempt. He is scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

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Seasons at Elwood project zoning change approved by Huntington Town Board

The Town of Huntington voted 4-1 to approve a zoning change for the controversial Seasons at Elwood project, which would contain 256 units of senior housing in East Northport. The Aug. 19, 2014, meeting was filled with residents who spoke for and against the project.  (Credit: Danielle Finkelstein)

The Huntington Town Board voted to approve a zoning change that would allow the Seasons at Elwood, an age-restricted community in East Northport, to be built.

Residents crowded into the meeting room at Huntington Town Hall Tuesday night as the board prepared to vote on a zoning change, from a 1-acre residence to a retirement community district, for the 37.05-acre site of the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road.

The board approved the change in a 4-1 vote. Town Board member Gene Cook voted against the measure, citing community opposition, the location and density.


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The vote was called before the meeting's public comment section, causing the crowd to erupt in anger, chanting "vote them out," and demanding to be heard.

"The board felt at this point that we pretty much have heard . . . the arguments we are going to hear over a series of several town board meetings," Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said.

Normally a vote is taken after the public comment section, not before, as it was Tuesday night.

The controversial plan calls for 256 units within 43 multiunit residential structures.

"I can't believe what just happened," said Ronnie Bohrer, a 48-year Elwood resident who opposes the development. "They would not let us speak. Unbelievable. What a disappointment."

The developer, Garden City-based Engel Burman Group, proposed the project in 2012 with 482 condominiums for people 55 and older, along with a 20,000-square-foot clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools.

The plan has faced constant opposition from nearby residents who worry about traffic, the environmental impact and the project's density. Residents have attended just about every town board meeting to register their opposition to the project.

The developer reduced the number of units to 360 and finally last month to 256 units. The condos are expected to sell for about $450,000, according to the developer.

"We are very pleased with the decision," said Steven Krieger, a principal with Engel Burman. "We had the support of a supermajority."

Approval of the change required a supermajority -- at least four of five votes of the town board -- because a valid "protest petition" signed by owners of more than 20 percent of the land directly opposite the proposed development was presented to the town board in June.

Next up for the developer is getting town site plan approval.

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Traffic study proposed for busy Woodbury Road in Huntington

Susan A. Berland, a Democrat, is a Huntington

Susan A. Berland, a Democrat, is a Huntington Town councilwoman. (Credit: James Escher)

The Huntington Town Board will vote Tuesday on a resolution to commission a traffic study for busy Woodbury Road.

"It's a long time coming," said board member Susan Berland, who is sponsoring the resolution that calls for spending $24,818.52 on the study.

"There have been a number of accidents and there have been a number of complaints registered by constituents, and questions about how we can introduce traffic-calming devices to slow traffic down," Berland said.


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Residents have long complained about speeding on the road and accidents that have caused deaths and damaged property, including mailboxes and utility poles. The speed limit is 30 mph on the road that runs from West Pulaski Road to Main Street.

Marilyn McDermott, a Woodbury Road resident, said she moved into a house on the busy thoroughfare in February 2013 and in June of that year, a motorcyclist was killed outside her home.

In that crash, Andrew Garafalo, 21, of Melville was driving a 2007 Kawasaki motorcycle south on Woodbury Road at a high rate of speed when he crossed a double yellow line in an attempt to pass a car and was killed in the two-vehicle crash, Suffolk County police said at the time.

"When I spoke to my neighbors, it turned out it wasn't the first fatality," she said. "We'd known speeding was already a problem; we couldn't get our mail because it was too dangerous to be down at the end of the driveway."

She said days after the motorcyclist was killed, a motorist plowed through her mailbox. At some point, her child's school bus company gave permission to the driver to pull into McDermott's driveway for pickups and drop-offs. "It was too dangerous for us to even wait at the end of the driveway for the bus to come," McDermott said. "We never caught a break from what was going on Woodbury Road."

Fed up, she reached out to Berland and started an online petition urging the town to conduct a traffic study. More than 400 signatures have been gathered in support of the study.

Berland said the town put out a request for proposals last year to undertake the study and awarded it to Uniondale-based Gibbons, Esposito & Boyce Engineers. However, the town could not find money to pay for it. Funding was found to do it this year in the budgets of traffic safety and the comptroller, she said. The company agreed to do the study for the same amount quoted last year, Berland said.

The study will be completed by mid-September, she said.

"You don't want to get traffic counts in the last week of August when people are on vacation, school's out," Berland said. "You want to get the highest traffic counts when they do their analysis."

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Park planned in Melville land swap is put off

A complex deal to allow construction of affordable

A complex deal to allow construction of affordable senior housing, a park and a house of worship on two sites in Melville is moving forward. This is an illustration of the proposed project. (Credit: Michael Schnurr)

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Construction has begun in the Town of Huntington's innovative three-way deal that allowed for affordable senior housing, a Hindu temple and a park to be built in Melville.

But residents who pushed for Sweet Hollow Park say they've been told the park portion of the complex deal is on hold until the town comes up with money to pay for its completion.

"We had been asking for a park since 2001, long before this deal," said Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow Inc., one of the architects of the deal. "It's been promised to us; we were told there was money not only to buy the land but to furnish the park and build it. Now we're being told something different."


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Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said there was never a time frame for the $1.75 million park to be built. The 8.1-acre site has been cleaned and plans were drawn up, he said.

"Sweet Hollow is an approved park and will be built," Petrone said. "Now whether it's another six months, or eight months or two weeks is going to depend on the funding cost."

The park is to be built on the Meyers Farm property at Round Swamp Road and Old Country Road. The land was purchased in 2003 by Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam-Northeast, a Hindu organization known as BAPS, which planned to erect a temple on the site.

But area residents preferred a community park, so town officials, BAPS and the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow Inc. devised the plan that transferred development rights from one property to another.

Last year, the town closed on the $1.3 million parcel for the park, using town Environmental Open Space and Park Improvement Fund money. Taff says the town commissioned a park committee and named a steward. She said the expectation was that the park was coming sooner rather than later.

But Petrone said other parks that were approved have also been delayed while town officials figure out how to mete out funds. He said the town's open space fund allows for the purchase of land to build parks: "But when you have several parks, you only have so much flow of cash or resources in that fund."

The town has had three open space bonds: $15 million in 1998; $30 million in 2003; and another for $15 million in 2008. The money is placed in four funds: acquisition, which has $5.4 million; park improvement, which has $504,000; neighborhood enhancement, which has $800,000; and green projects, which has $409,000.

Petrone said he is considering floating another open space bond next year or dipping into capital funds.

Town board member Gene Cook, who voted against the resolution that made the three-way deal possible and has criticized his board colleagues about buying open space because of the cost to taxpayers, said he could have predicted the delays. "I'm not surprised we're running out of money," Cook said. Petrone disputed that assertion.

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Elwood School District wants development's soil cleanup assurances

Huntington resident, Kim Camron shouts her opposition to

Huntington resident, Kim Camron shouts her opposition to the building of a housing development "Seasons of Elwood" prior to the start of a Huntington Town Board meeting at Town Hall on the evening of June 17, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

The Elwood school board would like to see a soil cleanup plan put in writing before the Huntington Town Board votes on a zoning change for the Seasons at Elwood development in East Northport.

School board vice president Dan Ciccone said the district's concern was never the project's density but rather the presence of soil contaminates such as pesticides and heavy metals that can affect the health and safety of the students in John H. Glenn High School and Elwood Middle School, which abut the proposed 37.05-acre site.

"I would want the town and the developer to make a deal to have an independent party, preferably the DEC [State Department of Environmental Conservation] come in and verify the contaminations in the soil and, more importantly, validate a remediation plan and then supervise the plan that was validated," Ciccone said.


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However, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said the remediation plan will not be filed until the planning board's site plan approval process. Last week the town planning board voted to recommend to the town board it approve the zone change with eight conditions, one of which was a remediation plan. The town board could vote on the zoning change Aug. 19.

Petrone said the developer, Garden City-based Engel Burman, has agreed to pay for an outside expert chosen and working under the direction of the town to oversee the remediation. That will be included in a resolution regarding the zoning change.

"As a school board the health and safety of our students is first and foremost amongst all things," Ciccone said. "So we really wouldn't be doing our proper protection for kids if we just said 'the guys said it's going to be fine, so it'll be fine.' We need something a little more formal, much more of an assurance that this is going to be OK."

Jan Burman, principal of Engel Burman, said the site will be cleaned and approved by the appropriate town and county agencies.

"This is going to be remediated based on 2014 standards," Burman said. "It's going to be pristine in terms of being clean; there will be no issues to anyone who lives in the community or in the development."

He added that the water will come from the Greenlawn Water District, and a sewage treatment plant will be state-of-the-art.

"Everything will be done according to new science, new technology and the way things are done in the year 2014," he said.

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Huntington planning board recommends rezoning for East Northport senior housing

An architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects

An architectural rendering by Robert M. Swedroe Architects and Planning company shows the front view of a building designed for the Seasons at Elwood.

The Huntington planning board has voted to recommend to the town board that it approve rezoning for the controversial Seasons at Elwood in East Northport.

The board voted 6 to 0 Wednesday to make the recommendation with eight conditions, including limiting the proposed community to 256 age-restricted units on the 37.05-acre site of the Oak Tree Dairy on Elwood Road.

The developer, Garden City-based Engel Burman Group, needs a zone change from 1-acre residence to retirement community district to build the project. The town board is expected to vote on the zone change Aug. 19.


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The plan has faced constant opposition from nearby residents worried about traffic, the environmental impact and the project's density since it was proposed in 2012. The project was scaled back last month from 360 to 256 units.

"The town board did an excellent job in effecting a compromise, frankly, to reducing it to 256 units," said Paul Mandelik, chair of the planning board.

The conditions outlined by the planning board include a mandate that the project include affordable units, as required by town code. Also, the applicant, at its expense, must provide traffic improvements contained in the environmental action form/traffic study.

The developer also has to install a traffic signal at the entrance to the development, as well as any other related traffic improvements that Suffolk County might request.

The setbacks for building and parking must be no less than what is shown in a supplemental expanded environmental form filed this month; any soil contamination issues must be addressed in accordance with town cleanup standards; and residential buildings have to be varied in appearance -- style, rooflines, facade, materials, color, type of windows.

Also, the northeast part of the property must provide substantial open space and be enhanced for "scenic vistas" on Elwood Road.

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Huntington car-care center move in question

Joe Colamussi, owner of the car-care business at

Joe Colamussi, owner of the car-care business at 733 Park Ave. -- seen on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 -- had planned to move the business to another site, but may hold off based on zoning regulations within the town of Huntington. (Credit: Ed Betz)

Plans to move a car-care center from one side of busy Park Avenue in Huntington to the other have been thrown into question.

Joe Colamussi, who owns the building at 734 Park Ave., has put it up for sale as medical office space. Colamussi had planned to move a car-care business he owns at 733 Park Ave. across the street to 734 Park, which has been a gas or service station as far back as the 1950s.

Neighbors had expressed concern about the proposed moves.


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If Colamussi sells the property, he would convert it to a medical facility, said John Breslin, Colamussi's Huntington-based attorney and Realtor, who is handling the sale. He said his client is seeking a convenience store tenant for 733 Park.

"He's testing it to see if there's any interest in it [734 Park] as a completed medical building," Breslin said.

Colamussi has secured site plan approval and a building permit to start construction "and he put the foundation in for what would be the medical building, but I don't think there is a plan to complete it unless somebody wants it," Breslin said.

According to the town, zoning at 734 Park allows for a gas station with minor vehicle repair such as oil changes and tune ups, as an accessory use. Change of that use to a full-fledged motor vehicle repair shop would require permission from the zoning board of appeals.

A medical office building at the site would be unconditionally permitted, provided the owner complies with area requirements, including a buffer, parking and height restrictions, town officials said.

Breslin said since Colamussi purchased the building, there has been "some automotive use" continuously on the site, but there are no gas sales.

Jim Matthews, the attorney for the town's ZBA, said, "Theoretically, when they stopped selling gas they should have gone to the ZBA for permission to continue solely as a car care place."

There is no application before the ZBA in regard to 734 Park Ave., Matthews said.

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