When Lionel Chitty looks around the mix of parking lots and offices around the Hicksville train station he sees a downtown destination waiting to be born.
Since 2010, the Hicksville Chamber of Commerce, of which Chitty is president, has held a series of workshops and events seeking input from the community about reshaping the area and turning it into something that will draw home buyers, renters and consumers.
Across Long Island, a number of communities have had similar visions for their downtowns, particularly those with Long Island Rail Road stations. And villages like Patchogue have in large part succeeded with mixed-use development — housing as well as commercial space — in their revitalized downtowns.
“We need a destination, we need a downtown,” Chitty said. “We need people to come spend time, live, work and play in that area.”
That vision is a step closer as Oyster Bay is set to unveil on Thursday evening a proposal that would rezone 162.2 acres, primarily in the 147.9-acre central business district, according to John Ellsworth, a town consultant.
A 57.7-acre area around the train station would be rezoned as “transit” and would permit four- to five-story commercial buildings. Housing in the transit district would require a special permit. The remaining 104.5 acres would be rezoned as “traditional downtown” and would allow three-story multifamily housing. Buildings on Broadway would be mixed-use, with ground-floor businesses and housing on upper stories.
The proposal calls for initially capping the number of residential units in the new zones at 500, which could be reviewed once the cap is reached, Ellsworth said.
The new zone, as currently being considered, is almost identical to one proposed by the chamber and Vision Long Island in 2013. That proposal, called the “Downtown Hicksville Revitalization Action Plan,” promoted the idea of a walkable downtown anchored by the train station. The train station itself is in the middle of a $121 million upgrade by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Vision Long Island is a Northport-based smart-growth planning organization.
“This signals change,” said Vision Long Island executive director Eric Alexander.
He pointed to recent housing developments in Farmingdale as an example of what is possible around transit hubs, and also to limitations on growth in response to community concerns.
“They don’t want super-tall buildings; the cap on this heightwise is four stories” [for residential], Alexander said of the Hicksville plan.
Since the beginning of the year, Oyster Bay Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia and Councilman Anthony Macagnone have pushed the rezoning.
“The community is ready for it,” Alesia said. She also looked at the new housing in Farmingdale as a positive example of downtown transformation.
“We need housing for young people,” Alesia said. “We’ve got this amazing opportunity.”
The zoning changes will require an environmental review that can take months or years, but Alesia said this is a priority for her in 2017.