Smithtown’s planning board will recommend that the town board deny a zone change petition from the owner of a troubled Kings Park industrial site who wants to build garden apartments there.
The 3-1 planning board vote Wednesday night is a setback for Thomas Gesuale, who submitted paperwork to the town indicating he hoped to build 60 apartments on 36 acres off Lawrence Road, town planners said.
Gesuale sought a zoning change from medium density residential and light industrial to high density residential at the site, one of several in the area used for sand and gravel mining in the 1960s, and then for landfill and storage.
It now holds waste as deep as 48 feet, Planning Director David Flynn wrote in a memo that town staff read at Wednesday’s hearing. “It does not seem prudent to permit people to live above or adjacent to buried waste,” Flynn wrote. Aside from health concerns, Flynn wrote, the material could cause engineering problems for structures built on top as it settles.
Town officials in 2014 won a State Supreme Court injunction to prevent Gesuale family members from undertaking heavy industrial activities at the site that violated town zoning code. They later said in court papers that the Gesuales were violating the injunction by storing heavy equipment and processing tree debris there.
In a bid to head off a denial recommendation Wednesday night, Gesuale’s zoning lawyer, Vincent J. Trimarco Sr., asked the Planning Board to delay its decision and commission a comprehensive environmental impact statement. He also said that apartments would be preferable to the garages and truck stations that Gesuale is entitled to build under the current light industrial zoning.
Planning Board president Conrad A. Chayes Sr. had little sympathy for those lines of argument.
“I’ve been on the site,” he said. “It looks like it’s something from another planet. I couldn’t envision someone wanting to live there or wanting to put apartments there.”
A handful of residents who spoke at the hearing expressed similar views. “There may very well be a need for garden apartments in the Town of Smithtown, but there are locations better suited for this use other than this closed landfill,” said Peter Henninger of Fort Salonga, a Kings Park Civic Association member and the son of the association’s vice president, Linda Henninger.
In an interview Thursday, Trimarco said he was unsure whether Gesuale would drop his petition and develop the land under current zoning or go before the Town Board for a hearing he estimated would take place no sooner than January. The Town Board could order an impact statement or simply deny the petition at that time, he said.
“My client is going to develop it one way or the other, pursuant to what the town says he can do,” he said.