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Babylon Town studies ways to transform downtown Copiague

Babylon Town hall on Aug. 30, 2003.

Babylon Town hall on Aug. 30, 2003. Credit: Newsday / Daniel Goodrich

A plan to transform downtown Copiague into a residential and retail hub moved a step closer to reality last week with the completion of a study assessing the possible impact of development on the surrounding community.

That study, recently completed by Babylon Town planners and known as an environmental-impact statement, anticipates that development would bring more traffic and greater demand for municipal services but also a brighter economic future for an area near the Copiague Long Island Rail Road station now dominated by parking lots and industrial buildings.

The Babylon Town Board could vote on rezoning the area this spring. Public comment on the impact statement was opened for 10 days after the town board meeting last Wednesday.

The impact statement is substantially similar to a draft posted on the town website last month, said Jonathan Keyes, director of the town's Office of Downtown Revitalization, but the area being considered for rezoning has been cut from 35 acres to 30.

The final statement also devotes more attention to reducing the need for parking in the downtown area by making the streetscape more inviting to pedestrians.

The redevelopment effort would not employ a master developer, as the town has for Wyandanch Rising and may for a planned project on Route 110 in East Farmingdale, but would instead rely on zoning incentives, infrastructure improvements and a streamlined approval process to spur development.

One possible buildout scenario envisioned by the impact statement, based in part on resident input from the 2009 Copiague Vision Plan, envisions $144 million worth of construction over the next decade in the area.

Keyes said town planners had taken into account concerns from residents about increased traffic. Some of those, he said, will be addressed by retiming traffic signals and reconfiguring roads.

But the final draft is likely to do little to assuage deeper worries about increased density and the introduction of affordable housing that were voiced at a Town Hall hearing last month.

"There are always lingering concerns about the 'Queensification' of Long Island, but many people recognize we have to move forward to retain young people on Long Island," Keyes said.

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