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Nesconset residents oppose apartment plan

Nesconset residents, citing concerns about traffic, property values and potential neighbors they refer to as "transients," are lining up in opposition to a proposed 66-unit apartment complex.

The one-bedroom apartments, which would be marketed to single people and young couples, would destroy the character of the neighborhood off Lake Avenue, which consists mostly of single-family homes, residents said Wednesday at a Smithtown Town planning board meeting.

The Nesconset developer, Story Book Homes Inc., is asking for a zoning change to allow garden apartments on a 5.34-acre parcel between Pierson Street and Wilson Avenue. The property is zoned for lower-density housing and professional businesses.

A zoning change would have to be approved by the Smithtown Town board.

About 200 people packed the planning meeting, almost all of them opposed to the project. Many said they believe the apartments would reduce the values of their homes.

"A lot of us moved out here to get away from garden apartments," said Nesconset resident Mike Vogell.

Ronkonkoma attorney Frank Tantone, representing Story Book Homes, said monthly rent for the 775-square-foot apartments would be about $1,200. Citing a study by Pearl Kamer, chief economist of the pro-business Long Island Association, Tantone said more affordable housing is needed because young people cannot afford to buy or rent typical Long Island homes.

"Hopefully it will help some of the young people to stay in the great town of Smithtown," Tantone said. "They're not able to stay on Long Island because of the high cost of living here."

Many residents, such as Jim Bartunek, president of the Nesconset Taxpayers Association, said apartment dwellers would not be good neighbors. "This is going to invite a transient population," he said. " . . . They don't care about the town."

The lone supporter of the project, Christopher D'Antonio, 24, said he lives at his parents' Hauppauge home because he can't afford his own place. He said he draws a salary in the "high 30s" as a planner-trainee for the Town of Islip.

"There is a dire need for this type of housing," he said. "I don't know where this stigma comes from that a resident of affordable housing is a drug user or a transient."

Planning board chairman John Gee said board members will inspect the site before deciding whether to recommend the zone change.

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