New plan submitted for Oak Tree Dairy

Oak Tree Dairy owner Hari Singh. Oak Tree Dairy owner Hari Singh. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

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The would-be developer of the Oak Tree Dairy in East Northport has filed plans for a smaller project, as promised to local residents and town officials.

Jan Burman, president of The Engel Burman Group, said Friday his company has submitted a plan for a 55-and-older condominium development that would have 360 units, rather than the previously proposed 444.

Residents and the Elwood Union Free School District have opposed the project on the 37-acre site that abuts Elwood Road. They say they fear dense construction and potential traffic issues.

Burman asked in October that his application be pulled from review by the town planning department, so he could meet with civic groups and residents, which he did several times in recent months.

"We tried to create a compromise and a balance that would be something more that they wanted, but something we could live with," he said.

But MaryJane Mackey, co-president of the Elwood Taxpayers Association, said Friday the developer did not cut back enough. "We were hoping for a smaller number," Mackey said. "I don't think 360 is a small number."

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Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said 360 units may not be the final number. "It's not over until it's over. . . . There is always opportunity to continue talking."

The dairy owner, Hari Singh, signed a contract in September 2011 with a subsidiary of The Engel Burman Group, which wanted to construct the development. The Elwood school board declined to take a stance, but changed its mind in January, after prompting from town officials.

The school board decided not to endorse the project based on the planning board's response to its questions. Board members said the town could not offer "any long-term guarantee that school children could never reside in this high-density development," according to the letter.

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The school board's letter upset Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, a local trade association, who wrote to Petrone and John King, the state education commissioner.

Pally said in his letter to King that his organization wished to file a "formal complaint" against the school district, saying the district had acted illegally by writing the letter opposing the development. Pally asked for the school board's letter to be withdrawn.

Jonathan Burman, spokesman for the state education department, said the state sent a letter to Pally that confirmed receipt of his complaint and outlined the procedure for filing an appeal, which Pally said he plans to do. Burman said in an email he could not comment further.

Petrone said Friday he had not seen Pally's letter to the town but that it was an issue that needed to be worked out with state education officials.

Dan Ciccone, Elwood school board vice president, said the board is concerned the town could not guarantee school-age children would never live in the development. "That creates a potential long-term risk to our schools, and therefore we cannot endorse this," he said.

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