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Huntington considering changes to apartment construction code

Huntington officials are considering changes to the town code section that allows apartments over stores after residents complained about maintaining the character of the downtown area.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci has asked the planning department for recommendations about changing the business district zoning code after receiving complaints about what residents called overdevelopment. Lupinacci cited a petition being circulated requesting a public hearing to consider limiting the number of apartments allowed above stores.

“The general consensus of discussions with constituents and residents is that people want the town board to look over and review the C6 zoning,” Lupinacci said of the section of the code that allows construction of apartments above stores.

The zoning allows the residential component as long as the footprint of the upper floors does not exceed that of the ground floor. The law applies to all areas of the town except where superseded by an incorporated village’s code, but the focus on residents’ concerns has been the downtown area.

The only incorporated village with commercial space in the town is Northport.

Residents have said they feared the existing law can be interpreted as allowing an unlimited number of apartments, although Lupinacci says existing height restrictions on new development limit the number.

Bob Suter, who is one of the residents circulating the petition that gathered more 1,000 signatures, said he is taking a “wait-and-see” position about what the planning department will recommend.

“This is the same planning and environment department whose recommendations to the town board and planning board have led to the greenlighting of so many of the projects . . . that have enraged so many of the town of Huntington’s voters,” said Suter, a former Newsday employee who works for Queens College. “Consequently it’s hard to remain optimistic.”

About 20 projects in downtown Huntington are either under construction, have conditional approval, are approved or have an application submitted.

Town Board member Mark Cuthbertson who is the only remaining board member from 2006 when the issue of apartments over stores was last addressed by the board said apartments over stores has added “vitality” to the downtown.

“Without knowing what the supervisor will be proposing, I can’t comment. Once he offers a framework or a resolution, I will be in a position to take a position.”

Lupinacci said finding balance is the goal.

“I think we have to strike a balance between welcoming new businesses at the same time preserving the quaint nature of the town. I think that’s what people want to see: a suburban downtown but they don’t want it to be overdeveloped or over built,” Lupinacci said.

He said any application already on file with the town would not be impacted by any changes to the code.

Once the town board reviews the planning board recommendation, a public hearing could be set for the fall, Lupinacci said.

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