The Head of the Harbor Village and area residents on Tuesday sued the Town of Smithtown and the former defense contractor Gyrodyne alleging their failed environmental review permitted the company to move ahead with the property’s subdivision plan.
The suit, filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court, asks that Smithtown Planning Board's preliminary subdivision approval be annulled and that the town and the former defense contractor conduct additional environmental review.
Officials and company executives “are attempting to proceed with a massive project with serious environmental impacts without undertaking the required environmental hard look,” plaintiffs’ lawyers said in their complaint.
Town officials and company executives did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Gyrodyne is seeking to subdivide its 75-acre St. James property near Smithtown’s northeast border for uses such as offices, a hotel and an assisted living facility. Subdivision is not necessary for development but the company has said in securities filings that it believes selling individual lots will maximize value. Company executives told Newsday in 2017 they planned to unwind operations by 2018. A prospective buyer backed out of a $16.8 million deal last year to buy nine acres.
Catering facility Flowerfield Celebrations, located at the site, will not be altered by the subdivision and its operations will continue.
Head of the Harbor Village and Brookhaven Town are near Gyrodyne’s North Country Road property but have had limited influence over Smithtown’s review. Town officials “left us with no choice but to commence this litigation,” Joseph Bollhofer, chairman of Head of the Harbor’s Zoning Board of Appeals, said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the lawsuit. Officials from those municipalities and residents attended the conference. Bollhofer is also a member of St. James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition, a plaintiff in the suit.
Opponents of Gyrodyne's proposal have for years said development on the scale the company envisions would radically change their North Shore community by introducing commercial projects, clogging area roads and threatening environmentally sensitive Stony Brook Harbor.
Company representatives have said those claims are unfounded, citing consultants’ findings that projected traffic increase would be manageable and that a planned on-site sewage treatment plant would benefit the harbor.
But the suit claims that the environmental impact statement summing up months of analysis by town and Gyrodyne consultants “does not consider the project’s impact on the character of the historic, undeveloped and residential nature of the community” as state law requires.
It also claims that analysis that was part of the environmental review was incomplete because it used a 2017 traffic study plaintiffs’ lawyers said was outdated and failed to consider the cumulative impact of development on the area.
“Go back and do it right,” E. Christopher Murray, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, said at the conference.
The coalition has circulated an alternate development plan members say would allow for preservation and development on a portion of the property, and Bollhofer said Tuesday “serious efforts are underway” to flesh out alternate proposals for the site. Bollhofer said he had talked with a member of Gyrodyne’s board of directors about them, but he did not name that person or say how they would value the property.
Correction: Joseph Bollhofer is a member of St. James-Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. The group was misidentified in an earlier version of the story.