Babylon Town will delay a sweeping plan to rezone central East Farmingdale, citing criticism from residents alleging insufficient community input on the project and concerns about its impact, Supervisor Rich Schaffer announced Wednesday.
"We want to make sure that East Farmingdale has their first say as to what should be done or what should not be done there," Schaffer said Wednesday at a town board meeting. "Then the general town will be able to take a look at it."
The rezoning proposal would allow developers to build dense, mixed-use apartment buildings on 109 acres near the intersection of Route 110 and Conklin Street.
Town officials have said the code could transform the windswept hamlet of big-box stores and light industry into a walkable neighborhood full of affordable rental housing.
But neighbors have expressed concern about the impact on local schools, infrastructure and quality of life.
To address those concerns, Schaffer said Babylon would form a committee of town officials and local stakeholders to review the rezoning proposal going forward. The town has not set a new timetable for the proposal, he added.
"The town board is not happy with the way the process went down," Schaffer said at the meeting. "I don’t believe we were served well.”
Schaffer declined to elaborate after the meeting but recommended that questions be sent via email.
Asked for clarification on Schaffer's comment, town spokesman Kevin Bonner wrote in an email: "The Town is always looking for ways to improve communication with local residents on any proposed project and welcomes all input."
Schaffer also said at the meeting: "We'll allow the office to do what it should've done originally, which is to take all the information that they gathered from the community … and present it to the town board."
Bonner said Schaffer was referring to Babylon’s Office of Downtown Revitalization, which has been spearheading the rezoning.
In a statement provided by Bonner, Downtown Revitalization director Amy Pfeiffer said town officials are "committed to working closely with all the residents of East Farmingdale."
Town residents expressed gratitude to the board for the delay, and displeasure about the form the proposed rezoning has taken thus far.
Helen Norjen called the rezoning proposal a "huge gravy train for landowners and developers who want to collect monthly rental fees from thousands of apartments."
A Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement released by the town in May projected that the proposal could bring up to 4,402 new residents and $612 million in construction to the hamlet under a maximum build-out scenario.
Dover, Kohl & Partners, the Florida planning consultants hired by Babylon to draft the new code, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment. The firm led a series of public design workshops to gather community input on the project last year.
In April, the town withdrew another proposal from the Office for Downtown Revitalization, to create a permit for small-scale mixed-use development, following widespread community opposition.