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Smithtown eyes school district site for possible purchase

The Smithtown school district's headquarters on New York

The Smithtown school district's headquarters on New York Avenue in Smithtown, Nov. 1, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Town of Smithtown officials say they may make an offer to buy the Smithtown Central School District property on New York Avenue, days after cancellation of a developer’s contract to build apartments on the site.

The town could turn the 13-acre site into a park, preserving existing playing fields while consolidating municipal departments on the site that have been scattered for decades across downtown.

“The green space would be phenomenal,” said Deputy Town Supervisor Tom McCarthy, who made the proposal at a Town Board work session Tuesday. “Efficiency would go up drastically” if the town brought its departments under one roof, he said.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said he was “on board” with a plan to send Town Attorney Matthew Jakubowski to negotiate for the town, but said the board would have to approve any purchase offer.

Vecchio said in an interview the town could borrow $2 million to $3 million for the project, while looking elsewhere — perhaps state or federal grants — to raise additional revenue.

“I’m confident we will find a way to mitigate the cost,” he said. “We will explore every funding avenue available.”

In an email from a spokesman, Smithtown schools superintendent James Grossane said “this is the first we are hearing of this. The Town has not contacted the district on the matter.”

Vecchio and McCarthy declined to estimate the value of the property. Nashville, TN-based developer Southern Land Company had offered at least $14.8 million for the site, with plans to rezone and build about 252 apartments and a sewage treatment plant there.

District administrators had worked for close to a year on the sale, which they said was motivated by dwindling student enrollment. The administration building, built in 1924, would have been demolished, and its offices relocated to empty space elsewhere in the district.

Residents, though, said the SLC plan was outsized for its location. Some residents came to town meetings to criticize the sale.

SLC cancelled its contract last Friday without having submitted any applications to the town. The company released a statement Tuesday that read: “It is our hope that once the town board, School District and residents can come together in support of a common vision that Southern Land Company can play a role to bring that vision to life.”

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