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Residents critical of proposed South Setauket housing tax deal

Commack-based Heatherwood Golf and Villas seeks an aid

Commack-based Heatherwood Golf and Villas seeks an aid package to help pay for construction of a planned $54.9 million senior-housing project at its South Setauket golf course. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

A plan to add 200 senior housing units at a South Setauket golf course is facing questions from residents concerned about a possible loss of tax revenue for local school districts.

Commack-based Heatherwood Golf and Villas is asking the Brookhaven Town Industrial Development Agency for an economic aid package, including tax breaks, to help pay for construction of the $54.9 million project. Heatherwood officials said the apartments would help address a shortage of rental housing on Long Island and increase revenue at the golf course, which would be shrunk from 18 holes to nine.

But some civic leaders and a town councilwoman worry that the Three Village and Comsewogue school districts, which include parts of the 67-acre golf course, could lose tax income from the deal. They said that could occur if the IDA approves payments in lieu of taxes that would temporarily freeze Heatherwood's tax payments.

Ed Garboski, vice president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said that Heatherwood officials “never mentioned that they were going to get a tax break. They only mentioned what we were going to get in taxes. … The numbers they gave us were actually pretty low.”

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who said she opposed Heatherwood's proposal, said in an email that the company's request for tax breaks "seems to be in clear contravention to the promises made to our community."

Heatherwood managing member Douglas S. Partrick did not return a message seeking comment.

In its application to the IDA, Heatherwood officials said failure to obtain the tax breaks would result in "the loss of rental housing for seniors, including 30 affordable units which are needed in this area, and the loss of employment opportunities to the local area."

Though the golf course is in South Setauket, Heatherwood's website identifies it as being located in Centereach.

Heatherwood paid $154,674 in property taxes on the golf course this year, Brookhaven officials said. The taxes are distributed to various governments, including the town and school, library and fire districts.

Brookhaven IDA chairman Frederick C. Braun III said the package requested by Heatherwood would freeze the golf course's current property taxes for the first three years. Taxes then would increase 10 percent per year for 10 years, and tax rates would return to normal after that, he said.

Economic aid packages are intended to help developers complete construction before they receive revenue from new projects, he said. Opposition to tax breaks is rare, he said.

“It’s really three years before they have cash flow,” Braun said, adding the Heatherwood project is not expected to burden schools with additional pupils. "There’s always concerns about how many kids are going to be generated by a particular project. This is a senior project, so you wouldn’t expect to have kids.”

The IDA will hold a public hearing on the Heatherwood proposal at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Brookhaven Town Hall in Farmingville. The IDA board will vote after the hearing on whether to accept Heatherwood's application, Braun said. If it is accepted, the board will vote later on whether to approve it.

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