Smithtown is seeking input from residents on how they want the...

Smithtown is seeking input from residents on how they want the town to look.  Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

Smithtown officials are seeking input on “what people want this community to be” as they prepare the town’s first new comprehensive plan in more than half a century.

Six community workshops — one for each hamlet — are scheduled this spring, and a web survey aimed at residents and people who work in the town is online now.

The plan is "like a how-to guide” that will direct land use decisions and taxpayer infrastructure investment for the next 20 to 30 years, said Allyson Murray, a town planner.

The town is looking to understand “what people want this community to be,“ she said. "Direction will come from the public.”

The draft that emerges over the next 18 months will be the subject of a full environmental impact statement, rather than the abbreviated review consultants had initially suggested, Deputy Supervisor Thomas McCarthy said. "There's too much going on, too much at stake, not to do a full impact statement," he said.

Existing town plans from 1957 and 1961 include roads and municipal buildings that were never built or no longer exist, said Peter Hans, the town’s top planner. Mid-century authors never contemplated some types of development, such as assisted living facilities, that now dot the town, he said.

Without a modern document, he warned, officials have sometimes found themselves “reacting to things” rather than planning strategically. With a comprehensive plan in place, he said, officials will no longer need to consider development proposals on a case-by-case basis but will refer to the plan.

“Developers will have a clear sense of where the town wants to see development, what kind of development the town wants to see and how they could go about doing it,” she said. “They will also have a very clear idea about where the town does not want to see development and what should be preserved.”  

The spring workshops, scheduled for evenings to attract as many people as possible, will feature roundtable discussions led by facilitators about land use and development, transportation and parking, parks and open space, community facilities and historic preservation, and environment and sustainability.

Town staffers said they hope to reach a tenth of the town’s population, or about 12,000 people, through the online survey. That would be a massive increase over the few dozen who regularly attend town meetings and tend to be affiliated with civic associations or political parties.

The survey asks detailed questions about housing, transportation, neighborhood condition and other topics, with fields for open-ended comment. By last week, planners said, about 170 people had completed it, and dozens had left public comments.

Sewers and travel within the town were top topics. Respondents were mostly united in their pleas for sewers in areas that now rely on septic systems to make it easier to open restaurants and coffee shops in downtown business districts. More than 30 people commented on parking and transportation within the town, with a clear consensus that both need improvement.

“Traveling in Smithtown is a nightmare,” one person wrote. “I go shopping in other towns because of the traffic.”

Comprehensive Plan survey:

Community workshops:

Smithtown March 7, Senior Citizens Center

Nesconset March 12, Great Hollow Middle School

Hauppauge March 19, Hauppauge Pines Elementary School

St. James March 27, St. James Elementary School

Commack April 4, Commack High School Art Gallery

Kings Park April 11, Kings Park High School

All workshops run 7 to 9 p.m.

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