Proposed Kings Park rezoning irks residents

(L-R) Anthony Leteri, a Kings Park developer and

(L-R) Anthony Leteri, a Kings Park developer and business owner, with his son, Angelo, and daughter Maria Leteri-Curtain, stand near the land next to 499 Lawrence Road. (Jan. 26, 2013) (Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile)

Continuing a decades-old debate, Town of Smithtown officials and Kings Park residents are battling over the proposed rezoning of a property that neighbors blame for diminishing their quality of life.

Angry residents, speaking at a public hearing on the 4.6-acre site at the northwest corner of Lawrence and Old Northport roads, complained of noise, trucks and smells from that parcel and others in the area.

Town officials, stone-faced for much of the 90-minute hearing on Jan. 24, attempted to explain the nuances of town zoning and state environmental regulations.

Kings Park businessman Anthony Leteri said he has a deal to buy the property, a composting and mining operation, and is requesting a zoning change from half-acre residential to a category allowing retail industry and outdoor storage. His attorney argued that the rezoning, if approved by the town board, would alleviate the nuisances.

But neighbors, who packed the town senior center meeting room, were not buying it. "I believe the change of zone will make the smell worse," said Demetri Ballas.

His wife, Tess, added, "It smells like you-know-what."

Leteri's proposal is at the center of a dispute that began more than three decades ago over the Kings Park industrial park, a 2.4-mile strip of sand mining, composting, construction and other businesses that have frustrated officials and residents.

As they have at similar meetings in recent years, irate residents last week demanded that the town crack down on the businesses for alleged zoning code violations. Town officials responded that there is little they can do, citing court decisions that most businesses in the industrial area predate the code.

Leteri said in an interview his plan would attract "green industry" that would not disturb homeowners. "The residents have real good issues," he said. "I'm the solution to the problem."

Town officials aren't so sure. Leteri's plan, first floated in 2011, prompted the town last year to commission a $20,000 study by a Patchogue consultant, Baladassano Architecture, to recommend potential uses for Leteri's parcel and about a dozen others covering 126 acres at Lawrence and Old Northport roads. About 92 acres are zoned for homes and 34 acres for light industry.

Smithtown leaders said they wanted Baldassano to craft a plan that would persuade landowners to abide by zoning laws. But the company's report, known as the Lawrence Road study, was quickly dismissed last month by town officials because it called for allowing light industry and outdoor storage throughout the studied area. Town officials favor rezoning some, but not all, of the residential parcels.

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