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Dunkin' Donuts proposed near Nesconset park rejected

Residents in the Nesconset neighborhood opposed the development.

Residents in the Nesconset neighborhood opposed the development.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

A proposal to build a Dunkin' Donuts and an office building near a Nesconset park failed to win a needed supermajority vote from the town council this week.

“I’m happy with the outcome,” said Maureen O’Connor, the Smithtown schools clerk who lives in the area and helped organize a group of neighbors against the project. “It was, ultimately, the right decision.”

The application from Browns & 347 LLC was to change zoning on a 2.7-acre parcel near Sprofera Park from single-family residential to wholesale industry. New York State registration for that company lists an address connected with Jesse Walia, who owns several Dunkin’ Donuts franchises. Another developer, Elmer Hornberger, was also listed on planning development documents as an applicant.

Smithtown Town Council members Thomas McCarthy and Lynne Nowick and Supervisor Edward Wehrheim approved the change at a May 7 town council meeting, with Thomas Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo opposing, and the town clerk recorded the change as adopted.

But that was a mistake, town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said in an interview Wednesday night, because enough of O’Connor’s neighbors had signed a petition that she circulated opposing the change last year that state law required a supermajority on the council to change the zone. That meant that only a 4-1 or 5-0 vote would have passed the measure.

“People in the immediate area voiced their opinion, and they did it by the book,” Garguilo said. “This is an interesting example of American democracy at work.”

Town council minutes saying the zone change had been adopted had not yet been revised Thursday afternoon. Garguilo said the town clerk was waiting for official notice from the town attorney, which he expected by the end of the week. 

O'Connor and some neighbors said the proposed project was out of place in their neighborhood, and it could lead to more residential properties being rezoned for business. 

Split votes are rare on the town council. In a text message, Inzerillo said she supported commercial development in the town but was “not a fan of changing residential zoning” to permit more intense business use in an area surrounded by homes.

Lohmann, who played Little League at the park as a boy, said that the parcel “should stay residential. They could put three, four homes there if they want to develop the property, and that would keep a little bit of the feel.”

Wehrheim, in an interview Tuesday, said that the developer had revised plans repeatedly in response to town concerns over aesthetics and traffic safety. “The reality is, if we do not increase our commercial tax base in Smithtown, which has not been done in some time, the tax burden is going to fall on the homeowner.”

Vincent Trimarco Sr., a land use attorney who represented Walia, could not be reached for comment. 

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