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Oak Tree Dairy may be converted to condos

As the sun peeks over the treetops, milkman

As the sun peeks over the treetops, milkman Ed Hartough of Oak Tree Dairy delivers milk to the home of a customer in North Babylon. (March 15, 1985) Credit: Newsday File/Dick Kraus

For three generations the Oak Tree Dairy in East Northport has been a family business, providing milk to the region. It has also become Long Island's only milk processing operation.

But that could all end soon.

BK Elwood LLC, a subsidiary of The Engel Burman Group, has signed a contract to buy the dairy and use the 36.87-acre parcel to build an age-restricted condominium community.

"We've also filed an application to the town to get our approvals for the property," said Steven Krieger, principal of the Engel Burman Group.

The change of zone request is from one-acre residential to retirement community district to build The Seasons, a 482-unit development.

A conceptual plan, a full environmental assessment form and a preliminary traffic letter have been submitted, according to town officials.

Calls to the dairy owner were not returned. It is not clear if they will distribute milk from another site.

Oak Tree, owned and operated since 1941 by the Cosman family, which also owned the Dairy Barn chain, no longer has cows. It pasteurizes, homogenizes and packages raw milk shipped from upstate dairy farms to the East Northport plant.

By the 1950s, Oak Tree had several retail routes and a fleet of 21 trucks covering a territory from Great Neck to Rocky Point and from Amityville to East Islip. By the late 1990s the company sold milk out of about 1,400 retail outlets on Long Island, including 450 schools. But its relationship with neighbors has been touchy over the years because of odor from the plant.

Now, there are new worries.

About 250 concerned -- and skeptical -- residents filled a recent meeting hosted by the Elwood Taxpayers Association, worried about traffic and residents who may need low income or affordable housing moving into the development.

The developer has said the units will retail for between $435,000 and $500,000 and the development will include a clubhouse, three pools and tennis courts.

"The best that we can hope for is that they build a nice community and everyone is happy after it's built," said Walter Raab, co-president of the taxpayer group.

Krieger said the development will offer many benefits to the community, including an estimated million-plus dollars in annual tax revenue to the school district without adding children to the buildings; the creation of a state-of-the art sewage treatment plant eliminating the open-air system -- and odor -- on the property; and a major traffic mitigation plan for Elwood Road.

"We continue to look forward to hearing the concerns of the community, and we'll do our best to address them," Krieger said.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he loves the idea of the development because it offers senior housing and boosts younger generations because of the tax benefit to schools. "A dairy really doesn't belong in the middle of a residential area," he said. "And this is a solution to it."

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