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Babylon’s planning commissioner retires after 12 years

Babylon Town planning and development commissioner Ann Marie Jones will retire Friday, ending a 12-year career with the town that spanned two supervisors and major projects including Wyandanch Rising, Copiague Commons and North Amityville’s Greybarn apartments.

Jones, 66, oversaw a department that last year reviewed 5,000 applications. If you built a house, opened a restaurant or installed a hot tub, you did so under rules she helped interpret and enforce. But those larger projects — complicated, prominently located and politically sensitive — could mark the town for decades to come.

“This is a big loss for us,” Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said last week. “I was taken aback when she told me she was retiring...I valued her guidance and her thoughtfulness.”

In a town like Babylon, Jones said in an interview last week, much of a planner’s work is what she called “adaptive re-use” of already developed land. For Jones, who started with the town in 2004 as its first director of downtown revitalization before moving to planning in 2007, much of that work takes place in the hamlet downtowns, encouraging denser mixed-uses in primarily commercial areas.

Greybarn is a different case. Once a mobile home park covering a strip of land along Route 110, it held about 358 mobile homes where residents said they paid some of the lowest rents in the area; the new development will replace the mobile homes with 500 apartments, 100 of which will rent for below-market rate.

Jones described a trade-off bitterly opposed by some former residents: “safer, better housing that’s architecturally interesting, along with open space. There’s a rational plan to it, as opposed to the mobile home park, which was not safe housing.”

Under Jones, town planners discouraged proposals for a bus depot and truck company headquarters in downtown Wyandanch, as they did a proposal to build a foundry on Railroad Avenue in Copiague, where builders this month broke ground for two new apartment buildings.

Babylon Town has added more rental housing than many neighboring municipalities in recent years, she said. But, like many municipalities on Long Island, it still faces a critical shortage of affordable housing, she said.

Even as her successor, Tom Young, takes control and steers expected growth in areas like East Farmingdale, planning a town that remains affordable for its residents is likely to remain a challenge, she said. “I don’t know if it’s ever something you’re going to win. It’s just something you continue to work toward.”

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