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Suffolk lawmakers OK new council for major projects

The Suffolk County Legislature, in a vote that crossed party lines, narrowly approved a proposal to create a regional council of municipal governments to expedite major projects, despite opposition from five of the county’s 10 towns.

The measure, sponsored by Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Oakdale) and passed by a 10-7 vote, calls for creation of a regional planning alliance to meet at least four times a year to coordinate planning on “projects of regional significance.” Municipalities would be required to be part of the alliance to qualify for county resources to help fund such projects.

The proposal aims to attract private investors who are discouraged by lengthy approval delays and to create good-paying jobs for young people, Lindsay said.

“There’s more than $1 billion in projects waiting to move forward,” said Lindsay, citing the Ronkonmkoma Hub, Heartland Town Square in Brentwood and Wyandanch Rising.

But Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, who opposed the measure, asked for a delay and read letters from two other supervisors, Angie Carpenter and Scott Russell, over fears it would diminish town zoning powers. They worried the legislation would bar them from getting county funding or require them to use consultants of the county’s choosing.

Lindsay, who has amended his measure, said his legislation imposes no such limits and the provision to create a pre-approved list of county consultants was only aimed as speeding up the process.

Earlier, Brookhaven and Smithtown also opposed the legislation, but Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is stepping down in January to run for Congress, embraced the plan as a “big step foward.”

Mitchell Pally, chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, said the alliance will broaden the view of town officials so they understand “the decisions they make not just affect residents in their community, but the residents of the larger county.”

But Ann Becker, president of the Mt. Sinai Civic Association, warned it will “effectively silence the voice of local residents on large scale projects which will impact our communities.”

Legis. Jay Schneiderhman, who in January will become Southampton supervisor, said the bill contains some “inartful language” that has “created some confusion.” He got a committment from Lindsay to meet with town officials and bring forward amendments later, if needed, to clarify the law.

GOP Legis. Rob Trotta said changes should have come before passage. “I’m a 100 percent for this, but there are gray areas,” he said.

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