Brookhaven Town officials have approved the rezoning application for a proposed 110,000-square-foot commercial center in Farmingville, despite what officials described as unexpected opposition from residents.
Before town board members approved the measure 5-2 at a public hearing last week, about 40 Farmingville residents turned out to voice concerns about the project -- Holmesview Commons at Farmingville -- near Horseblock Road and North Ocean Avenue.
The proposed center by developer Art Garratano of St. James has the backing of the local civic association, but many residents at the meeting said they were not involved in earlier discussions about the plans.
"It's my backyard," Farmingville resident Rosemary Grande, 47, told council members at Tuesday's meeting.
Grande said she would not have moved to the area 22 years ago had she known such a development would eventually encroach on her property. "We pay taxes, too," she said.
Councilwoman Jane Bonner, who voted against the action, said in an interview after the meeting that the turnout spoke volumes. "For this many people to turn out on such a miserable night shows that they weren't involved in the process at all."
Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents the community and voted for the measure, said during the meeting that she was surprised by the opposition because she had canvassed the community. "There have been plenty of meetings, and I've walked the neighborhood."
James Stratford, a director of the Farmingville Residents Association, said the organization "enthusiastically" supports the project because it would boost the local economy.
"The spirit of the project is such that it provides additional commercial space, which we feel is vital for economic growth," Stratford said.
His comments and others drew loud criticism from those audience members opposed to the development. Opponents say it could negatively impact wildlife and increase crime.
An audience member handed town officials a petition with 118 signatures in an attempt to block the move.
Garratano filed the application on Aug. 14, seeking more commercial use on the property and a special permit for outdoor storage. The commercial center is expected to include five retail buildings, a bank and a restaurant.
Town officials said Garratano has sought to build on the site for years.
Kepert said she worked with Garratano for much of this year to help reduce potential negative impacts on the community. With Carl MacGowan