Major Holbrook project to be revisited

An image of what housing at an Islip An image of what housing at an Islip development called Serota Pines may look like. Photo Credit: handout

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After a year of dormancy, a proposal for a 136-acre mixed-use development in Holbrook has been heavily revised and is scheduled to be voted on by the Suffolk County Planning Commission on July 3.

Last month, the Islip Town board accepted the final environmental impact statement for the Serota Properties-owned development, a complex planned at Veterans Memorial Highway and Sunrise Highway that would host housing, retail, industrial and entertainment uses. Because of the project's size and regional significance, it was referred to the county planning commission.

The revamped plan for Islip Pines includes fewer square feet of retail and more green space.

Serota's attorney, Bram Weber, said they spent months going through the town board and resident comments from a crowded March 2012 public hearing on the project to come up with a new design.

"They didn't like the layout of the plan," Weber said. "They wanted to see a more cohesive plan -- more walkable."

Some of the changes: smaller industrial buildings; 70,000 fewer square feet of retail, down from around 409,000 square feet; the addition of six ballfields, two multistory parking garages, 100 more housing units up from 250 to 350, a youth and senior center and a great lawn in the middle of the complex with walking trails, a water feature and a stage.

"The idea is to make this a destination for people not from this area to come and spend money," Weber said.

Though the proposal has been transformed, nearby civic associations and chambers of commerce from areas such as Holbrook, Sayville and Bayport vehemently oppose the plan, fearing its two big box stores and 339,000 square feet of retail will kill their downtowns.

"This is a bad idea for Sayville and the surrounding communities," said Bill Etts, president of the Sayville Chamber of Commerce. "We're not saying to the developer 'don't develop there.' . . . We want them to develop in a way that won't hurt us. So yes, we would love more housing, we would love industrial."

The parcel is zoned industrial and requires a change of zone from the town board. Islip Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said 50 percent of the project would be permissible under current zoning, but he said that while the updated plan is an improvement on its previous version, if asked to opine on the project for the town board today, he would recommend denying approval.

"Without any indication of construction scheduling, the town has no assurances that the overall mix of land uses would ultimately be built," Genaway said in an email. "It is this mix of land uses that creates a certain synergy that makes the application more acceptable."

Genaway recommended several covenants and restrictions be added to the property, including that the developer adhere to the mixed-use concept plan, create a construction schedule, create public transportation linkages to nearby downtowns; limit the maximum size of buildings and the minimum number of parking stalls; and what he described as "significant" mitigations regarding traffic safety, including new signals and road widening.

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