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Heartland Town Square project faces last regulatory hurdle

Artist's rendering of Heartland Town Square, proposed for

Artist's rendering of Heartland Town Square, proposed for the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center site in Brentwood. Credit: .

The Islip Town board will hold a special meeting Tuesday to vote on a change of zoning application for the Heartland Town Square development — the last regulatory obstacle for the massive mixed-use development that has languished for more than a decade.

The vote is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Town Hall, 655 Main St. in Islip. There will be no public comment at this meeting, according to town officials.

In April, the town held a multi-hour public hearing on the proposal, during which 144 speakers submitted comments for town board members to review, as well as more than 1,600 comments submitted online.

Developer Jerry Wolkoff has been trying to launch the mixed-use development at the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood for the past 15 years. He is seeking a zone change for the site off the Sagtikos Parkway from residential to a newly established Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District.

Wolkoff purchased the 450-acre plot from the state in 2002 for $20 million and originally intended to build a mixed-use development that included 9,000 apartments, 3 million square feet of office space and 1 million square feet of retail.

The Islip Town planning board last year granted approval for a modified version of the plan, with an initial construction phase monitored by the town for potential traffic and infrastructure impact. The first phase of construction is to take place on a 133-acre portion of the site. The height of buildings in the first phase is limited to five floors, reducing the original proposal’s size by nearly 1.9 million square feet.

In February, the Suffolk County Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the Islip Town board grant the zoning change.

Tuesday’s scheduled vote was applauded by Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, who supports the Heartland project.

“In order for our region to remain vibrant and economically competitive, it is important that we support new transit-oriented development projects that offer more affordable housing options, walkable downtowns and recreational opportunities,” Law said in an emailed statement. “Long Islanders are recognizing the need to keep growing while maintaining our quality of life and plans for Heartland are significant steps in the right direction.”

Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore President Donna Periconi, who has opposed the project, said the chamber would watch carefully how the vote proceeded.

“These five public officials who are supposed to be representing we the people will solely be responsible for this project moving forward,” she said. “Will their vote be the right one? For over a decade, we’ve questioned this mammoth project and we believe it will forever alter the Long Island we know.”

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