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Tax breaks for apartment complex will boost Selden, most speakers say

This rendering shows Westfield Green, a proposed 126-unit

This rendering shows Westfield Green, a proposed 126-unit apartment development at 495 Middle Country Rd. in Selden. Credit: Kelly Real Estate and Development

Most of the speakers at a public hearing on Monday endorsed Suffolk County giving more than $7 million in tax breaks to a long-delayed apartment complex proposed for Selden.

Twenty-six of the 29 people who testified before the county’s Industrial Development Agency said they back the tax breaks for Westfield Green, a proposed 126-unit apartment development at 495 Middle Country Rd. The site once was home to the now-closed Island Green Golf Center.

The $32 million project cannot secure bank financing without the IDA tax incentives, developer Michael Kelly said at the hearing, which attracted more than 60 people to Brookhaven Town Hall.

The seven-member IDA board will meet Thursday to consider giving final approval for the aid, which will last for 15 years. Preliminary approval was granted last month.

Rita Passeggio, owner of a printing shop in Selden, said Monday, “I don’t see how this will affect the community in a negative way. It will help the businesses in the small shopping centers, it will increase property values.”

Passeggio said she appreciates the concerns of the Middle Country Central School District about lost tax revenue and an influx of new students — but doubts the influx will happen.

Millennials who would likely live in the apartments “are not really looking at [starting a family]. . . . They are looking at careers,” she said, referring to her daughters. “I won’t be a grandmother until I’m 90.”

Still, school board member Arlene Barresi said the district has a responsibility to ensure everyone pays their fair share of property taxes. The district already educates more than 400 students who live in apartments, she said.

“When kids move into the district it costs money to educate them,” Barresi said. “I don’t think we can ask residents to pay more because someone else isn’t paying their fair share.”

Westfield Green would save more than $6 million in property taxes over 15 years; school taxes represent about 70 percent of the typical property tax bill.

Bruce Morrison and Rich Cremmins of the Selden Civic Association also expressed concern about “our neighbors subsidizing” the education of students who would live in the new apartments.

Daniel P. Deegan, the developer’s attorney, estimated Westfield Green would add about 15 students to the local schools, based on data from the school district.

Selden resident Dale Spencer said the economic activity and additional tax revenue produced by the apartment complex would surpass the cost of the tax breaks. “I don’t think that many kids will come in,” he said, “and the community really needs economic help, businesses are suffering.”

The project has been endorsed by Brookhaven Town, business groups and Legis. Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), who represents the area. Another county legislator, Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), has criticized the tax breaks.

Kelly, the developer, said Monday that Westfield Green will “clean up a blighted area and encourage additional investment” as his The Riverwalk apartments has done in Patchogue. But he said Westfield Green “can only get built” with these tax breaks.

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