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New hearings planned on Carmans watershed

The Carmans River cuts through the Wertheim National

The Carmans River cuts through the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley. (Oct. 2, 2011) Photo Credit: Carl Corry

A revised plan designed to protect the Carmans River watershed will be the subject of two community summits in the next few months.

The new Carmans plan is designed to replace a proposal Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko withdrew last month, backers of the new plan said. Unlike the earlier proposal, the new plan will be crafted based on input gleaned during townwide meetings on May 30 and June 2, supporters said.

Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, who supports the new approach, said the proposal will provide a road map to save the 10-mile river, which runs from Middle Island to Bellport Bay. But several environmentalists said the proposal lacks substance.

The new plan proposes a $30 million to $40 million bond to fund preserving "critical watershed properties" and other waterways in town, according to documents filed at Town Hall. The plan could also rezone properties in the Carmans watershed to reduce building density, documents state.

The two community meetings will play a major role in determining the look of the final plan, supporters said. "The major focus here is to open up the process and hear from the community," said Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who supports the new plan.

But Richard Amper, executive director of the Pine Barrens Society and a supporter of the earlier proposal, said the new plan is short on specifics. "The idea that the community is going to come in and write a plan to save a river . . . is preposterous and disingenuous," Amper said in an interview during a meeting at Town Hall.

The original Carmans plan drew resistance from civic groups because it would have allowed developers to build higher-density housing away from the river. That proposal promised to allow developers to build with greater density than current zoning laws allow outside of the river's watershed.

Opponents said they feared the plan would spur overdevelopment.

The original plan lost the support of the majority of town board members, prompting Lesko to withdraw the proposal. Lesko was part of a unanimous vote Tuesday to set the two community meetings.

The new plan also includes a nod to the town's need to foster denser middle-income housing. The town will consider a code that "encourages development and redevelopment . . . to provide appropriately located next-generation housing," documents state. However, the housing code will not be coupled with the preservation of the river, Fiore-Rosenfeld hassaid.

Johan McConnell, of Yaphank, said the town needs to focus on preserving the river. "I drive by that river every day. I want it saved," she said.

The community meetings will be held May 30 at 6 p.m. and June 2 at 1 p.m., at Brookhaven Town Hall.

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