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Smithtown board defers decision on Catholic church's subdivision request

Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church in Smithtown on Sept.

Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church in Smithtown on Sept. 10, 2015. Credit: Ed Betz

A church's request to subdivide its acreage was met with such an emotional response from residents that the Smithtown planning board adjourned its decision until early October.

The Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church wants to subdivide a 2.53 acre property into four lots, two of which would be set aside for development of single-family homes. The irregularly shaped parcel borders Edgewater, Juniper and Mayflower avenues and contains the church, a rectory, a parking lot and several accessory structures.

Residents have questioned the church's intentions for the property, and that uncertainty dominated the hearing last week, to the frustration of the church's attorney, Donald King, who insisted that there was "not one reason" to deny the request.

"I don't even know that the houses would be built," said King, who is based in Kings Park.

Residents appeared wary about the church's lack of answers, questioning why there was an application submitted if there wasn't an intent to build. Planning board chairman James T. Ehrhardt asked whether King would agree to a condition barring further subdivision, "to alleviate residents' concern about additional houses being built."

King demurred and accused the board of "overreaching."

Several parishioners spoke during the meeting, painting a picture of the church's financial instability. According to Robert Sikora, a church trustee, some property would be sold to raise money for the construction of a rectory on one of the lots.

Michael Lanzarone, also a parishioner, said the church was divided on the decision of selling two lots, but that it is ultimately up to the church bishop.

Planning director David Flynn said the emotion surrounding the church and its future was "not really germane to the town's code." The planning department recommended approving the subdivision, subject to several conditions, including the preservation of the historic rectory building, which was built in 1913.

The proposal has been adjourned until the planning board's Oct. 7 meeting.

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