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Melville housing/park plan draws crowd

A plan to build a park, affordable senior housing and a house of worship in Melville drew a mostly supportive overflow crowd to this week's Huntington Town Board meeting.

While about 200 people stood in the hall outside the auditorium in Town Hall, more than 40 people spoke at a public hearing to discuss a request to change the zoning on 18 acres on Deshon Drive from light industry to garden apartment. They also addressed a request to transfer some development rights from Meyer's Farm in Melville to the Deshon Drive property.

The changes would allow New York City-based Deshon Partners Llc to build a gated community of 261 units priced in the mid $300,000s for those 55 and older on 13 acres on Deshon Drive. The company would sell the remaining five acres to members of Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha-Northeast, a Hindu group known as the BAPS, to build a house of worship.

The BAPS would then sell Meyer's Farm to the town for use as a park. Development on the Deshon land would be restricted to "affordable senior housing."

Karen Alu, of East Northport, was among about a dozen residents who spoke in support of the park, though not of transferring the development rights. "Covenant and restrictions do not last forever," Alu said, pointing out that a hearing that evening was about lifting a 1996 covenant set for a local restaurant.

Alissa Sue Taff, president of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow, who worked with the town and the BAPS, said it's a great solution to three issues.

"This is a unique situation, and it works," she said.At the request of Newsday, the developer has agreed to include information in its offering about the potential impact of living or worshiping near a newspaper plant. An engineering firm hired by Newsday sent a letter to the town board with recommendations on how to mitigate noise, including creating a buffer along Deshon, use of special building materials, and minimizing windows facing Deshon.

"While we do not oppose the development, we continue to work in the best interest of all parties . . . to ensure that everyone understands the realities of this industrial area," Newsday spokesman Paul Fleishman said Wednesday.The Deshon Drive site is being sold by Tribune Co., Newsday's former owner.

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