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Civic group, developer to meet on 180-unit apartment project

The Preserve at Smithtown would be built on

The Preserve at Smithtown would be built on 24 acres on Smithtown Boulevard between Nichols and Gibbs Pond roads. Credit: GIS Suffolk County

A Nesconset civic group's concerns over traffic and other impacts are holding up a developer’s request for $7.5 million in Suffolk County tax breaks for a proposed 180-unit 55-and-over apartment project in the hamlet.

Developer Jim Tsunis is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Cleary School in Nesconset with members of the We Are Nesconset group, said the group’s president, James Bouklas. Board members of the county’s Industrial Development Agency suggested the meeting. IDA board members, who must approve the tax breaks, tabled the matter twice this fall but could take it up again at their Dec. 19 meeting. 

Tsunis’ Northwind Group seeks a payment in lieu of taxes as well as exemptions on sales and mortgage recording taxes on the $47 million project, The Preserve at Smithtown. Company representatives said in application materials that the project was not viable without the tax breaks.

The Preserve would be built on 24 acres of Smithtown Boulevard between Nichols and Gibbs Pond roads.

Tsunis has pledged to set aside 27 units for affordable housing in IDA application materials, and he said at a Nov. 21 IDA meeting that he would build a sidewalk connecting the project to a nearby shopping area.

Long Island “is behind every other metropolitan-area suburb in the number of rental units, especially for 55-and-over residents,” Peter Curry, a lawyer representing Tsunis, said at that meeting. “This project is critical to meeting that shortfall.” Curry declined an interview request.

Smithtown officials granted site plan approval for 194 units at the preserve in 1998 and issued building permits that are still active. An addendum to the application, reducing the number of units to 180 but increasing their size, is pending, said town planner Peter Hans.

Town officials accepted an environmental-impact statement for the application in 1996. They have not ordered a new one. Howard Barton III, the town’s assistant environmental protection director, did not respond to a request for comment last week.

Bouklas said in an interview that decades-old approvals as well as traffic and environmental studies needed review. “We need to update these studies and take into account how the community feels,” he said.

He also argued that the project's impact was significant enough that it should be delayed until the Smithtown master plan was completed.

The plan is not expected to be finished until March 2021, Hans said.

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