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Reservations over Kings Park housing plan in industrial area

Houses are proposed at Old Northport Road and

Houses are proposed at Old Northport Road and Lawrence Road in Kings Park. Photo Credit: James Carbone

A Smithtown hearing on a proposed Kings Park residential subdivision of a former industrial site drew strong opposition from a civic group and a neighbor at a town council hearing.

“Why does every single piece of open property have to have housing? Long Island was supposed to be a place where there was space,” said Elizabeth Maffe, an Old Road resident, at the Sept. 19 hearing.

A development partnership known as KPE II proposes to build up to 42 single-family homes on 25 acres in an industrial area of the hamlet near Old Northport Road and Lawrence Road. Most of the partnership’s land is currently zoned for light industry, and the company has applied for a change of zone to R-21, a residential zone that allows houses to be built on half-acre lots. The town council must approve any change of zone. 

Smithtown’s Planning Board in May voted to recommend approval of the request, provided the developers cluster the homes on the western portion of the site, away from neighboring industrial parcels and portions of the site once used for sand mining and other industrial activities. “A change of zone can accomplish the goals of the draft plan and address the concerns of the surrounding residential community,” Planning Department director Peter Hans wrote in a May 13 memo to that board.

But Kings Park Civic Association vice president Sean Lehman last week repeated criticism of what he called a “reckless” proposal to situate housing next to industry and cited what he said was a history of bad behavior, including illegal heavy industry work by KPE II at the site. The site is also near a Winters Brothers recycling plant and Gesuale family property that Town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim described in an interview this week as “blighted.”

After neighbors complained of noise, vibrations and odors from the site, town officials in 2013 won a temporary restraining order against concrete aggregate processing, truck storage and use of heavy industrial equipment at the site. 

A New York State Supreme Court judge in Riverhead ruled in July that the company could engage in a variety of industrial activities at the site, but could not operate it as a solid waste management facility. That decision "requires some clarification as to the uses that are permitted at the site which must be addressed," Smithtown Town attorney Matthew Jakubowski wrote in an email.

KPE II has not engaged in any industrial activities at the site since submitting its rezoning application in 2013, said Edward McCabe, a lawyer who represented the company in its litigation against the town. 

John Zollo, a lawyer representing KPE II in its zoning application, said at the hearing that his client’s proposal would eliminate the potential for further industrial use of the site; denying it, he said, could mean it would be used as a concrete plant, stockpile yard or heavy equipment facility.

“That is a possibility if the rezoning of this property is not granted,” said Zollo, a former town attorney.

Wehrheim in an interview this week said that “even with substantial buffers,” subdivision residents would be uncomfortably near ongoing industrial uses. “That concerns me,” he said, adding that the town council will discuss the matter in coming weeks.

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