The Smithtown Planning Board in March approved Gyrodyne's plan to subdivide its mostly...

The Smithtown Planning Board in March approved Gyrodyne's plan to subdivide its mostly undeveloped 75-acre property in St. James. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The Smithtown Planning Board on Wednesday will hold a hearing on former St. James defense contractor Gyrodyne’s subdivision application.

The board could vote afterward on the company’s proposed eight-lot subdivision of its 75-acre site near the Brookhaven Town border. Subdivision is not necessary for development but could make it easier by permitting Gyrodyne to sell the property in pieces or build on individual lots. The company has proposed uses like offices and assisted living. Catering facility Flowerfield Celebrations, located at the site, would not be altered by the subdivision; its operations will continue.   

Also at Wednesday night’s meeting, which will be conducted virtually, the board is scheduled to vote on accepting the application’s environmental impact statement, an administrative action for which there will be no public discussion. 

Subdivision approval would come with conditions, changing the application the company opened with the town in 2017. Wastewater discharge ponds for a proposed sewage treatment plant would be relocated farther from environmentally sensitive Stony Brook Harbor, which is nearby. Development of the site could not generate more than 382 vehicle trips during peak morning hours, 538 trips during the afternoon peak and 323 during peak Saturday hours. Development would also have to retain 35.4 acres of open space with about two miles of walking trails. 

Opponents say Gyrodyne’s contemplated uses would squander one of the town’s last major open spaces, clog area roads with traffic and threaten the harbor.

St. James has a fraction of the open space in other town hamlets, and “this is the last piece,” said Douglas Dahlgard, mayor of Head of the Harbor, which lies to the north and west of Gyrodyne’s property. “Queens has been paved over, Nassau’s been paved over, Suffolk’s just about there.”

Joe Bollhofer, chair of the village’s board of zoning appeals and a member of the St. James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, which opposes Gyrodyne’s proposal, said a traffic study commissioned by the company during the environmental review underestimated the impact development would have on traffic. Gyrodyne’s recent estimates contradict 2010 testimony by the company’s own traffic expert that predicted far more traffic from commercial development, Bollhofer said.

“Money should be found, working with the county, state and private individuals, to purchase and preserve this property,” he said. The coalition has in recent weeks circulated a proposal members say would allow for preservation and development by building horse show arenas on a portion of the property. 

Gyrodyne president Gary Fitlin did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Gyrodyne, on its website, says subdivision "allows for the most responsible path to development, ensuring any proposed projects are appropriately sized and suited for the area."

Old Greenwich-based Star Equity Holdings said in a release last week it planned to nominate an alternate slate of directors for Gyrodyne, charging the publicly traded company had “become a compensation vehicle for the incumbent Board.”

In an interview, Star chairman Jeffrey Eberwein said his firm owned 2% of Gyrodyne shares, and that shareholders had suffered waiting for the company to sell its property holdings. 

In the interim, Eberwein said, board members benefited from a “highly unusual” bonus system that rewarded board members more than management.

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