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Commack motel among sites approved for new apartments

Smithtown approved apartment buildings to replace the Courtesy Inn on Jericho Turnpike and a vacant lot across from town hall.

The Courtesy Inn in Commack will be replaced

The Courtesy Inn in Commack will be replaced by senior housing. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

The Smithtown Town Council this month approved two rental developments totaling 160 apartments on once blighted sites in Commack and downtown Smithtown.

Huntington-based DiNoto Group, through a subsidiary, TDG Commack, plans to build 98 one- and two-bedroom 55-and-older apartments on the 1126 Jericho Tpke. site of the Courtesy Inn, where town planners in 2012 ordered motel owners to clear trash and debris, including a collection of old railroad ties.

East Hampton-based developer Salvatore DiCarlo plans to build 62 apartments and 9,416 feet of retail space at 102 Main St. in a long-vacant lumber yard opposite town hall in Smithtown. The project was delayed by a 2011 Suffolk County grand jury probe that criticized Smithtown officials for encouraging illegal demolition of buildings there in 2009 but recommended no charges be brought.  

The town council gave site plan approval for the two projects on Aug. 14. Developers still need Suffolk County Health Department approval, which Robert DiNoto and Vincent Trimarco, a lawyer for DiCarlo, said they hoped to get within weeks. Motel demolition and construction in Commack could start late this year and building in Smithtown next spring, they said, with both builds expected to last about a year and a half.

The projects may ease a housing market that is tighter in many respects than in the rest of Suffolk County, with a 95.1 percent occupancy rate, higher median home value and few rental units, according census figures.

DiNoto, in an interview last week, said he hoped the project he and partner Paul Posillico plan would bring identity to an otherwise undistinguished commercial stretch about half a mile east of the Mayfair Shopping Center. “It was a mishmash — some retail, some industrial,” he said.

The developers intend to demolish the low-slung buildings and build a pool and clubhouse as part of their roughly $29 million project, which is expected to receive $4.5 million in tax breaks from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency. The one- and two-bedroom units will have an average rent of $2,300.

Residents of that development would likely need personal transportation. But the downtown Smithtown project, The Lofts at Maple and Main, would be within walking distance of shops and the Long Island Rail Road station, a location Trimarco said could attract both younger residents and retirees — and maybe more developers pitching similar projects.  

“This is going to be something that other developers look at and say, maybe I can do that too,” he said. “They’re going to be more prone to spending money in the town.”

Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said the construction would make for a welcome change: “We’re going into our 12th year of looking at that right in the middle of our business district,” he said. That project, along with others, like construction of municipal parking lots in Smithtown and Kings Park, “mark the beginning of our revitalization,” he said.

Mark Mancini, a Smithtown architect who advises the civic group Smithtown United, applauded the developments but sounded a cautious note. The right way to build them is “comprehensively,” he said, starting with a central sewer system.

That is something the town lacks, despite promises of aid from New York State; consequently, both new projects have planned on-site sewage treatment plants.

TDG Commack: Garden apartment complex with seven two-story buildings, 98 units.

Lofts at Maple and Main: Four three-story buildings, 62 units plus 9,416 square feet of retail space. 

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