Port Jefferson school officials are worried that a new apartment complex could bring in more students, but not enough additional revenue to help pay for their education.
School Superintendent Paul Casciano said an economic benefits package approved last month by the Brookhaven Town Industrial Development Agency could reduce the amount of property taxes paid to the district by the project's developer, Port Jefferson-based Brooks Partners. Construction of the 46 apartments and adjoining stores is expected to begin this fall on a Main Street property previously occupied by a carpet store and boat storage facility.
“I would say the most important thing for us is when they estimate the demographic impact, how many students are they going to generate?” Casciano said in an interview. “There may be an expense to the district, but not the school tax that would accompany that.”
Eric Russo, a Sayville lawyer who represents Brooks Partners, said the apartments — including 44 one-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units — are unlikely to flood local schools with new students. When completed, the $16.5 million project will include stores, office space and a restaurant on the first floor and apartments on two upper floors.
“These units are being constructed for young couples, young professionals, retirees. Really, the units are not designed for families,” Russo said. “The impact on the school district and their concerns are, in our opinion, either mitigated or not validated concerns.”
The benefits package approved by the Brookhaven IDA includes a series of payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, intended to control costs for the first 10 years after the complex opens. The annual payments start at $99,183 in the first year and gradually escalate to $213,360 in the 10th year, according to IDA documents.
Russo said current annual property tax payments on the property total about $35,000. “It will be an increase in tax revenue," he said.
IDA chairman Frederick C. Braun III said Brooks Partners had completed another apartment complex in Port Jefferson's struggling Upper Port section, near the Port Jefferson train station. The Main Street apartments will help address Long Island's chronic shortage of rental apartments, he said.
“We’re looking forward, and I think the village is, to seeing the project succeed,” Braun said.
Casciano said school district officials worry about other aspects of the development, such as dust, noise and impeded traffic during construction. The apartment complex will be near the district's Earl L. Vandermeulen High School.
If the entrance on Barnum Road is impeded in any way, "it obstructs buses, it obstructs students coming in, parents coming in," Casciano said. “We just want to make sure that as they go through this, there should be advance planning. ... We don’t have an alternative entrance into our school.”
Russo said the developer was required to show village officials that the project would not disrupt neighboring properties, including the school.
“We addressed all of the concerns to the satisfaction of the village planning board, and ultimately they approved the project,” Russo said. “It should not be an issue whatsoever.”
Details of Brooks Partners' apartment and retail complex on Main Street in Port Jefferson.
$16.5 million: Estimated construction cost
65,300: Size, in square feet
44: One-bedroom apartments
2: Two-bedroom apartments
$2,650: Monthly rent, one-bedroom unit (estimated)
$3,800: Monthly rent, two-bedroom unit (estimated)