At a golf course on Fort Salonga’s north end, in Huntington, a developer proposes to build 98 condominiums. To the south, in Smithtown, a truck company is expanding with a new 35,000-square-foot building. Connecting them is the winding Bread and Cheese Hollow Road,which Suffolk County engineers say they may turn into a thoroughfare.
Change is coming to this hamlet of 3,500 homes which strides the towns’ shared border, and residents and builders are struggling to find common ground.
Hauppauge-based Northwind Group last week submitted a revised site plan for its condominiums that managing member Jim Tsunis said no longer calls for removal of a hill on the golf course, among other changes he said he hoped will make the plan more palatable to neighbors. Huntington resident John Hayes, leader of a local civic group that opposes the development, said in an email that Tsunis “has said the same thing before each of his previous amendments so we’re understandably skeptical.”
After residents peppered town hall and Dejana Truck and Utility Equipment with phone calls and letters about traffic and illegal outdoor storage at the company property near Pulaski and Bread and Cheese Hollow roads, Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said last week that town and company officials had found at least a partial solution. Dejana will build a driveway on company property linking the new building with the old, where trucks can turn west onto Pulaski and stay off smaller neighborhood streets.
Finding a solution for Bread and Cheese Hollow Road may prove harder. Residents from both towns oppose county plans for improvements that could take years to finish and could include installing road shoulders and sidewalks, raising the 30 mile per hour speed limit and straightening the road, according to William Hillman, the county Department of Public Works’ chief engineer. It might be necessary to excavate slopes on the road’s west side and pave part of the county right of way on the east side, where residents may have planted shrubs or installed sprinklers. Ideally, Hillman said, the work would be timed to coincide with installation of gas lines extending up to the condominiums at the Indian Hills Country Club golf course, should Huntington officials approve them.
“We like it the way it is,” said Pam Bensin, a retired teacher who lives near the road. “The changes the county wants will make our quality of life worse.”
But Hillman said he and his colleagues have little discretion about the scope of the Bread and Cheese Hollow Road work, which he said is standard county practice for roads of its type.
There are jurisdictional complications, too. Smithtown and Huntington once shared maintenance but Huntington successfully sued the county in 2009 to take responsibility — the only town to do so, Hillman said, though other towns also have roads he described as nominally falling under county jurisdiction. The county responded to Huntington’s suit with 2016 regulations that allowed it to bill upkeep to the towns. Huntington sued again, lost, and is appealing.
Smithtown has agreed to take responsibility for its half of the road once more if the county does the capital work. Wehrheim said the town has no power to act on its own in the matter, “though we’d be willing to sit down and talk with Huntington anytime.” Huntington officials may be less willing, though. “Why would we assume maintenance of something we sent to court and won a judgment for?” asked Huntington Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta.
One Smithtown resident, Keith Macartney, has accused county officials of “using the homeowners of Fort Salonga as pawns,” on the theory that residents opposed to the work would pressure Huntington to compromise.
That theory is “not accurate,” said Hillman. “I’m an engineer. I don’t get involved in politics of it,” he said.