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Local historians oppose plans for buildings where George Washington stopped

A historic sign about the former Platt's Tavern

A historic sign about the former Platt's Tavern hangs near the intersection of Park Avenue and Route 25A in Huntington on May 12, 2015. The town is urging more restrictive zoning for the site. Credit: Ed Betz

George Washington ate there, so local historians are battling a proposal to build a 10,000-square-foot medical arts building at Park Avenue and Route 25A in Huntington.

Deer Park developer Dominick Mavellia has proposed a 3,000-square-foot urgent-care facility and a 7,000-square-foot building that would be leased by North Shore-LIJ.

Parking in the front would require a variance, and the construction would necessitate the demolition of a closed gas station and an operating deli on the 1.06-acre lot on the northeast corner.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone supports the project, but Paul Warburgh, president of Old Huntington Green Inc., said his group is concerned about the proposed size and style of the buildings and wants to offer input on the look of the complex, which would sit in the Old Huntington Green Historic District.

"This is a historic residential district and has been so since the founding of Huntington," he said. "This would plunk down an obvious commercial building and possibly a strip mall in the middle of a historic district."

While Mavellia said he is open to hearing and seeing what Old Huntington Green officials propose, he is not considering a strip mall.

"We've tweaked our plan probably a half a dozen times," Mavellia said, adding they've tried to incorporate a 16th-18th century look. "It's difficult to make everyone happy, and I have to consider the tenant who will be occupying the space."

Mavellia, owner of Wharton Pryce Realty Company Inc., said he has agreed to covenants and restrictions on the site that would bar a drive-through restaurant or convenience store. He plans to run a sewer line about 230 feet south of his property on Park Avenue to tie into the main sewer line and connect some of the historic houses.

But Warburgh said there is also concern the zone change Mavellia seeks, from residence district to C-4, would allow smaller-scale commercial service uses such as offices, retail, and customer service shops. The preservationists would prefer C-1 zoning, which allows only professional offices, funeral homes, art or music studios, and day care centers.

C-4 zoning "would allow him to change it into retail stores without any further input from the town," Warburgh said.

Mavellia acknowledges he would like to keep his options open. If the deal falls through with North Shore-LIJ, or a failing economy upends a medical use, "I wanted the flexibility of putting a high-end cafe and maybe a bridesmaid retail store or men's clothing store; dry uses that would go well with a high-end cafe," he said.

A public hearing on the zone change application is set for the June 9 town board meeting.

Stuart Fisher, owner of the Park Ave. deli, said he has an agreement to sell his business if the zoning change goes through. The plan is an opportunity to improve the corner, which some consider an eyesore, he said.

A state historical marker at the intersection announces the site was once home to Platt's Tavern, where Washington stopped in April 1790 to thank local residents for supporting the war.

He spoke, had a lunch of oysters, baked striped bass, stuffed veal, chicken pie and "all of the vegetables of the season" among other delectables, according to historical accounts.

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