Suffolk County planning commissioners on Wednesday failed to pass a resolution on former St. James defense contractor Gyrodyne’s subdivision application, returning the matter to Smithtown’s jurisdiction without comment.
The town planning board now has final say on the company’s plan to subdivide its mostly undeveloped 75-acre property off North Country Road for uses that could include a 125-room hotel, 250-unit assisted living facility and 175,000 square feet of office space, about 35% more than originally proposed. That board is expected in coming weeks to adopt a findings statement. The five-member board will then vote to approve or reject the subdivision application.
"This goes back to the town with no input whatsoever from the planning commission level, so all this deliberation is for naught," said John Finn, a real estate executive who is Smithtown’s representative to the commission. He warned that commissioners were ignoring potentially graver problems on a nearby section of former Gyrodyne land where he said Stony Brook University has plans to build 1 million square feet of office space without a sewage treatment plant. Finn did not respond to an interview request. A university spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Changes to the development mix, along with new information from Smithtown’s environmental review, had sent the application for a second time to the county planning commission, which approved the subdivision in 2017 by a 10-0 vote.
Wednesday’s 5-4 vote in favor of approval did not meet the threshold of eight yes votes the board needed to pass a resolution. County planning staff recommended approval on both occasions.
Some commissioners who voted against the plan after an at times rambling four-hour discussion asked questions about traffic and pollution, issues some opponents — including residents and officials in neighboring municipalities — have said should derail the company’s plans.
"I’m frustrated that you and everyone else just voted for this … proposal when we do no regional planning, we didn’t consider Brookhaven, we didn’t consider the village, we didn’t consider the traffic, we didn’t consider anything," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the commission’s representative for large villages.
In her remarks and in an interview after the hearing, Esposito said she worried the proposal would add traffic to area roads and cause a backup at a traffic light to be installed at Mills Pond Road. A traffic analysis conducted as part of the town's environmental review projects 507 new peak hour afternoon trips. About 60% of those trips would use Mills Pond Road; 40% would use North Country Road.
Although she acknowledged that the sewage treatment plant proposed for the northeast corner of the site would initially lower the load of nitrogen seeping from septic systems now used at the site, she said she feared that future expansion of the plant would enable development in the area, eventually increasing the nitrogen load.
"It’s very common for a sewage treatment plant to be upgraded with added capacity," she said.