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Bayville proposals for apartments downtown upset residents

Bayville Village Hall at 34 School St. on

Bayville Village Hall at 34 School St. on July 10, 2013. Credit: Tara Conry

The Bayville mayor and board's proposals to allow apartment buildings in business districts has created an uproar that is expected to continue at a meeting next month.

Mayor Paul Rupp said the changes would revitalize blighted areas and attract young professionals. Opponents said apartment buildings would change the character of the village, create traffic and strain resources.

"The objective is to try to bring more people into town so they stay and spend," Rupp said. "We're just trying to get rid of the eyesores."

Vacant lots, an unfinished construction project and empty storefronts on the western end of Bayville Avenue are signs of what Rupp said is a 40 percent vacancy rate among village commercial property.

Former Mayor Doug Watson, who lost the election to Rupp last year, said the proposed zoning changes would "change the whole nature of the village. People move to Bayville for the way Bayville is."

Watson said the proposals could give an incentive for property owners to knock down commercial buildings and replace them with apartments.

"You won't have empty stores -- you won't have any stores," Watson said. "You won't have a downtown business district as we now have on both ends of the town."

People who attended the April 27 hearing said it brought out 200 to 350 residents -- in a village of 6,723, according to 2013 U.S. census estimates.

Because of the turnout, the meeting was moved to the middle school auditorium and lasted more than four hours before ending without a vote.

The proposed amendments would allow apartment buildings of up to nine units to be built in business districts. Another would allow for ground-floor apartments in commercial buildings, Rupp said.

A third amendment would shorten the minimum space between commercial buildings and residences to 50 feet from 250 feet.

Francis Bates, 67, a retiree formerly involved in sales, said the changes would lead to development that would strain the water system and schools. Bates wants the issue to be decided by referendum. "It should go for a vote before the people," Bates said.

Rupp said Friday he expected the board to vote Monday on the changes, but Sunday announced the vote would be postponed until next month.

Board member Harry Pinkerton III said opponents failed to understand that the seasonal economics of a destination like Bayville don't support more storefront businesses. "Retail has not worked in this village," Pinkerton said.

He also said fears of large-scale development were overblown because apartment buildings would still require special-use permits and board approval.

Rupp said young professionals are leaving Long Island because they can't afford it and that these proposals could help. "This might be an opportunity for young people to live in Bayville," Rupp said.

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