A St. James real estate company is proposing to develop one of the largest tracts of industrial land in Smithtown into a hotel and medical facilities — but some town and village officials say they have traffic and environmental concerns about the plan.
Gyrodyne, the former defense contractor that owns the mostly open 62-acre Flowerfield tract off Route 25A near the Smithtown-Brookhaven border, has made applications to Smithtown and Suffolk County to subdivide the property.
The company envisions a $150 million development, with assisted living in addition to the hotel and medical offices, according to paperwork submitted with the applications.
The subdivision would be the biggest in years and probably the last of its size in Smithtown, which is mostly built out, said the town’s planning director, David Flynn.
The tract would be divided into eight parcels. Most of the land now is zoned for light industry, but the bulk of a 9.5-acre section zoned residential would remain as open space, in preliminary plans the company submitted.
The Suffolk County Planning Commission approved Gyrodyne’s subdivision application Aug. 2, and Smithtown’s planning board could schedule a hearing this fall, though the town’s chief planner said approvals could take years.
Smithtown’s traffic safety director and town engineer already have asked for additional studies and plan revisions. Gyrodyne or a future owner would need to obtain a special exception from the Smithtown Town Board to build a hotel or assisted living facility, but would only need site plan approval for offices.
The county planning commission is involved because the Gyrodyne tract sits at the intersection of state, town and village jurisdictions. County planning staff said at the Aug. 2 hearing that the proposed development could attract investment, maximize the tax base and create skilled employment opportunities.
Gyrodyne announced earlier this summer it would sell its assets and voluntarily unwind operations by the end of next year. Founded in the 1940s, Gyrodyne built helicopters and miltary drones at Flowerfield and by 1963 had more than 700 employees. The company started renting manufacturing space there for light industry in 1972. It eventually shed its manufacturing business and now operates as a real estate investmentmilitary
In a brief phone interview, Gyrodyne president Gary Fitlin said the plan was designed to easily clear official reviews.
“We want to be a good neighbor, even though we are selling,” Fitlin said. “We did not go after maximum density . . . We are keeping a significant amount of open space in the development plan.”
Gyrodyne is not seeking any changes for a portion of the tract that houses an existing light industry park, he said. Most of the tenants are small businesses, including art studios and a gym. A caterer on the site owns its own property.
It was not clear if the company would seek to develop the property itself or sell the land to developers after winning approvals, and Fitlin did not make himself available to answer additional questions.
But Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Head of the Harbor Village Mayor Douglas Dahlgard, whose communities abut the Gyrodyne property, said they worry the project would add more traffic to area roads — particularly Route 25A, the area’s major thoroughfare and Stony Brook Road, which intersects with 25A.
“We are going to be adamantly opposed to additional traffic on Stony Brook Road, and we will take whatever recourse under the law that we are allowed to do,” Romaine said in an interview Friday, amplifying concerns he expressed in a letter to the Suffolk County Planning Commission earlier this month. He pledged to attend an upcoming commission meeting in Shelter Island to speak on the issue.
Dahlgard wrote in an email to Newsday that he was concerned over fire coverage and the possibility of nitrogen from the development’s wastewater seeping into Stony Brook Harbor or into the village’s drinking water.
Smithtown Supervisor Patrick Vecchio declined to comment, saying he first wanted to examine the plans.
Michael Kaufman, a planning board member who proposed requiring a traffic study, also expressed concerns about the project’s impact on traffic on Route 25A, which he said was already over its planned capacity. He sought assurances about how a sewage treatment plant needed for the development could affect Stony Brook Harbor, and how developers could find “synergy” with nearby Stony Brook University. A Stony Brook representative declined to comment on the subdivision
Jennifer Casey, county planning commission chairwoman, said she favored mandating traffic studies on both Route 25A and Stony Brook Road, but said a commission majority opposed making it a requirement, instead opting to make it a recommendation.
“I understand his concerns because it is a big project,” Casey said of Romaine. She could not say if Brookhaven has any recourse after the board’s vote, but said she is willing to let Romaine speak at the next meeting.
The commission’s staff said new access to the site from Route 25A should only be considered if it is determined that access from Mills Pond Road or Stony Brook Road is inadequate.
But Romaine discounted the idea that traffic could be shifted onto Stony Brook Road by using an existing easement near the Long Island Rail Road tracks that stretches from the Gyrodyne property through Stony Brook University property, to Stony Brook Road.
“The recommendation fails to note . . . the existing . . . access is a private easement currently closed to traffic,” he said in his letter.
In addition, Romaine and Head of the Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals chairman Joseph Bollhofer have complained that they received scant notice or detail about the county hearing earlier this month. Casey said her agency followed the requirements for notification.
Romaine also sent a letter to the county legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory asking county lawmakers to pass legislation requiring the commission to give towns at least 10 days’ notice and the full details of any application. Without such information, Romaine wrote, “it hampers a town’s ability to provide an intelligent response.”
Gregory said Romaine’s suggestion did “not seem unreasonable” and he said he would talk to legislative counsel about drafting a resolution.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mischaracterized the status of a catering business. The business owns the land on which it operates. In addition, the size of the Flowerfield industrial tract in Smithtown was incorrect. It is 62.3 acres.