Islip Town officials have hired a consultant to study how the massive Heartland Town Square development project could impact town resources and if it will require hiring more employees for key agencies.
The study will focus on how the town’s resources, particularly staffing levels in agencies such as the building and planning departments, may be affected by the proposal to build 9,000 apartments, a million square feet of retail and 3 million square feet of office space over the next 30 years.
Camoin Associates of Saratoga Springs was hired by a unanimous vote of the town board for a $38,105 fiscal impact study to examine the “public cost and revenue implications” on the town from the mixed-use development on 452 acres in Brentwood.
“Essentially when we were discussing it at various meetings around the table, it really became apparent we should have somebody with a practiced eye look at this,” said William Mannix, director of the town Industrial Development Agency, which owns the parcel, site of the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center. “And this kind of expertise is not found in-house.”
Town officials are particularly concerned about costs at the beginning of the project’s three phases of construction before revenue such as taxes starts flowing back into Islip’s coffers.
“One of our concerns was in the phasing of the project — would that lead to upfront costs to the town that were not balanced by improvements?” Mannix said.
The town board approved the resolution at the Dec. 15 meeting after issuing a request for proposals Nov. 19. Camoin Associates is expected to issue the report by mid-March.
Gerald Wolkoff, the developer behind Heartland Town Square, said the study is intended to reassure town officials of the town’s ability to support the project.
“They just want to know if anything would cost the town to develop my site,” Wolkoff said. “I tried to explain to them that they’re going to be having more than enough money” from fees and taxes.
Wolkoff estimated that in the first phase of the project, he would generate about $650,000 in fees for Islip — enough to pay for any additional staffing and use of town resources, he said.
“So the cost to the town is not going to be any cost, but for themselves they have to feel comfortable” with the figures, he said.
Wolkoff also pointed out that the project hasn’t been finalized yet and that it is still years away from completion.
He is awaiting the Islip planning board and the town board’s approvals to rezone the parcel to establish a Pilgrim State Planned Redevelopment District and the adoption of Heartland’s master plan.
But Mannix said the study will help the town get a sense of what to prepare for if the project does get the green light.
“I don’t think it’s too early to get a number,” Mannix said. “In order to really determine what those costs may be, I believe you have to look at it now and find out whether or not the claim that the project will spin off enough in the form of tax revenue based on increased assessment and fees is reasonable.”