Oak Tree Dairy developer crafting new plan

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 been quietly meeting with residents and crafting a new plan he says will have fewer homes than originally proposed.

Jan Burman said his company will submit a new plan to town officials in the next week or two that will contain fewer than the 444 units they had proposed. He would not specify the new size.

He said his company still has a signed contract with dairy owner Hari Singh and hopes a development can come together that meets the expectations of town officials and neighbors of the 37-acre site. "We still have a deal . . . we still would like to have a deal," he said.

Singh signed a contract in September 2011 with a subsidiary of The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, which planned to build a 55-and-older condominium community on the site. But the size of the proposed complex bothered residents and civic groups, who feared the traffic and dense construction.

In October, Burman asked that his application be pulled from review by the planning department, so he could meet with civic groups and residents.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone confirmed the developer has met in his office with residents who oppose or support the project. Petrone said he believes the developer is willing to be flexible with plans for the property.

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"When you resolve something like this, everyone has to give and everyone has to basically understand that you can't satisfy everyone 100 percent," he said.

He said there is a need for 55-and-over housing in Huntington, but he would like to see fewer units and potentially some traffic studies done to address concerns.

"People are looking to stay in the community that they built," he said.

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MaryJane Mackey, co-president of the Elwood Taxpayers Association in the neighboring hamlet, has attended some of the meetings with Burman.

"I feel that really the largest input should be from Elwood residents," said Mackey, 81. "They are the ones who are going to have to bite the bullet if something happens with this development."

She said she thinks 400-plus units are too much for that site. She supports 55-and-over housing and "wouldn't be bothered" if it was smaller. "Four hundred and forty-four units isn't reasonable to me," she said.

Singh said he has options should the Burman deal fall through. He said there is a "severe" shortage of processing in the industry, and he has spoken with some out-of-state distributors about potentially leasing Oak Tree. "We're pretty optimistic if we can't do it, we will have options," he said.

He ramped up production in January 2013, after months of decreasing output, saying he could no longer afford to have the plant operate at less than capacity. He started tamping down again before he halted all production in April at what had been Long Island's only milk processing plant.

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He said there were less than a dozen layoffs; and some work was sold to other distributors, with conditions that they hire Oak Tree Dairy drivers.

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