Town aims to improve Nesconset intersection's safety

In this view looking south, the town of In this view looking south, the town of Smithtown is proposing the creation of a new intersection to replace the one currently located near the Nesconset Fire Department at Lake Avenue and Gibbs Pond Road. (July 15, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

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Smithtown Town Board members plan to discuss at Tuesday's work session obtaining by eminent domain or purchase a 3,000-square-foot parcel near a busy Nesconset intersection.

Obtaining the property would allow the town to realign the intersection at Lake Avenue and Gibbs Pond Road, moving it about 100 feet south of its current location, officials said. That would create a safer road for motorists who face a blind curve there and allow the Nesconset Fire Department -- located at 25 Gibbs Pond Rd. -- to more easily maneuver its trucks, officials said.

"It is something that we should be doing to make the roadway safe," Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

The issue came up at a board meeting last week when Nesconset Fire District chairman John Critelli said Smithtown Attorney John Zollo had concluded incorrectly that the district was willing to pay for the expense of reconfiguring the intersection. Zollo confirmed there had been a miscommunication.

"We definitely initiated an interest of pursuing the property . . . but under no circumstances did we initiate paying for the cost," said Critelli, adding some calls require trucks to make difficult near-U-turns out of the firehouse.

"It is not the responsibility of the Nesconset Fire Department," Vecchio said. "It lies with the Town of Smithtown, and we are only too happy to accommodate the taking by eminent domain for a small piece of property that will make the road safe, not only for the fire department, but for residents."

Councilman Edward Wehrheim said there are "mixed theories by a number of board members" about whether to pursue eminent domain or negotiate purchasing the property.

"I want to hear what the attorney says about our options moving forward, but I think the concept is a good one," he said.

Councilman Robert Creighton, who is running for Smithtown supervisor in the fall, said he would rather purchase the property than go through potentially lengthy eminent domain proceedings. "I don't like the idea of eminent domain, period," he said.

Councilman Thomas McCarthy said, "Either way . . . you have a duty to the public to fix the bad situation of that intersection. We can't slow down the response of the Nesconset Fire Department."

The parcel is owned by 99 Lake Avenue South, LLC, a St. James construction company. Co-owner Jerry Chasteen said that he has not been contacted by the town and declined to comment on a potential sale of the property.

"I'm planning on building a medical building on that property within a year or two," he said.

But Smithtown Planning Director Frank DeRubeis said the parcel "would not be usable because it's a triangular shape and very narrow and very long."

"You can't really build anything of any merit on that or really use it for parking," he said. "If that site was developed, it would probably be a landscaped area."

Officials couldn't point to an estimated cost regarding the proposal, which is in its early stages, but McCarthy said, "It's a very inexpensive property."

"We're going to need some concrete, curbs, asphalt and some dirt. It's not a big project," he said. "And we don't need drainage because we have a town sump right on Lake Avenue, adjacent to that intersection."

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