About 200 people protested a proposed $80 million shopping center on Jericho Turnpike on the border between Elwood and Dix Hills on Saturday.
Protesters said they wanted to make it clear to the Huntington Town Board they want the project denied and also to alert the community about the project.
The project, known as Villadom, calls for changing the town’s comprehensive plan to allow building a 486,380-square-foot commercial center on a 50-acre parcel of undeveloped land between Manor Road and Warner Road. Current zoning calls for single-family homes on 1-acre parcels.
Demonstrators held signs that said “Don’t Turn Elwood into Queens Blvd” and “Stop Villadom” during the rally in the parking lot of Dix Hills Shopping Center.
Opponents have said the project would bring eventual water contamination, exacerbate existing traffic woes and impact the communities’ quality of life.
“This a grass-roots effort to go door-to-door to let people know this is going on in their neighborhood,” said Lisa Bloomstein, one of the protest organizers. “So if you are opposed now, take a stand before it’s too late.”
Some business owners along Jericho Turnpike, including those with shops in the shopping center, have hired an attorney with the Melville-based Weber Group to formally oppose the project.
The development was introduced in 2013 but has remained stalled since 2016 after the town planning board chose to not make a recommendation to set a public hearing, as required for the comprehensive plan change. The Huntington Town Board set a May 17 public hearing to consider changing the town’s comprehensive plan to accommodate the developer, Great Neck-based Villadom, sparking renewed interest in the project.
The center would be on property leased by Villadom for 99 years. It would include a combined 245,500 square feet of office space and a fitness center, and 240,880 square feet of retail and commercial space on 49.28 acres.
Villadom Corp. president Kris Torkan has promised community benefits such as the creation of new jobs, a new library and tax revenues to the Elwood school district, town, and county. He said he is gathering information and plans to get back to the community soon with responses to questions raised at a community meeting Wednesday.
Dix Hills resident Allen Fritz said the community’s best interest would not be served if the project is approved.
“I don’t like changing the rules in the middle of a ballgame,” Fritz said. “The only reason someone would want to develop this property is to make money, they don’t care about the people, it’s not right.”